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Plant extract blend cuts cholesterol levels by 14%

Last updated on 09-May-2012 at 10:38 GMT2012-05-09T10:38:17Z

Red yeast rice - The principal component of the supplement
Red yeast rice - The principal component of the supplement

Daily supplements containing red yeast rice, policosanols and artichoke leaf extracts may reduce cholesterol levels by 14%, according to data from a human trial.

Sixteen weeks of supplementation with the plant extract blend also reduced LDL cholesterol levels by 21%, report researchers from the Laboratoire Lescuyer and Aix Marseille Universite in France.

“This new dietary supplement with a combination of plant extracts including red yeast rice, sugar cane-derived policosanols and artichoke leaf extracts seems to be satisfactory in terms of efficacy, tolerability and safety as this short-term trial has demonstrated,” they wrote in the European Journal of Nutrition.

“Present results are interesting and pave the way for future trials.”

High cholesterol levels, hypercholesterolemia, have a long association with many diseases, particularly cardiovascular disease (CVD), the cause of almost 50 per cent of deaths in Europe and the US.

A recent report from the American Heart Association predicted a tripling of direct medical costs of cardiovascular disease from $272.5 billion to $818.1 billion between 2010 and 2030 (Circulation, March 2011, Vol. 123, pp. 933-944).

The study used Laboratoire Lescuyer’s branded Limicol product and the French company sponsored the study.

Study details

The researcher recruited 39 people aged between 21 and 55 with mild hypercholesterolemia and randomly assigned them to receive either placebo or a dietary supplement containing Red yeast rice (500 milligrams per day), sugar cane-derived policosanols (11.1 mg per day) and artichoke leaf extracts (600 mg per day) for 16 weeks.

Results showed that the plant extract blend was associated with reductions in total and LDL cholesterol after 4, 8, 12, and 16 weeks. Compared with values at the start of the study, LDL and total cholesterol levels fell by 19% and 14%, respectively, over the whole study period. No changes were observed in the placebo group, added the researchers.

In addition, triglyceride levels decreased by 12% in the plant extract group, while an increase was observed in the placebo group.

“Present results need to be confirmed by more extensive studies to establish whether this combination could represent a good option for the management of mild to moderate hypercholesterolemia in the context of therapeutic lifestyle changes,” concluded the researchers.

Active ingredients

The researchers note that the main ingredient – red yeast rice – offers potential cholesterol-lowering benefits via the monacolin K content. Monacolin K, also known as lovastatin, acts by inhibiting 3-Hydroxy-3-MethylGlutaryl Coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase that plays a role in the production of cholesterol.

Red yeast rice is the product of yeast grown on rice. It is a dietary staple in some Asian countries, and reportedly contains several compounds that inhibit cholesterol production.

Findings of a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine (Vol. 150, pp. 830-839) suggested that red yeast rice could help reduce blood lipid levels in people intolerant to statins.

This was followed by findings from a study by researchers at the University of Tennessee, Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, and the University of Connecticut, which found that dietary supplements of red yeast rice may lower LDL cholesterol levels by 21% (The American Journal of Cardiology, Vol. 105, pp. 664-666).

Source: European Journal of Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, Online First, doi: 10.1007/s00394-012-0357-x
“LDL-cholesterol-lowering effect of a dietary supplement with plant extracts in subjects with moderate hypercholesterolemia”
Authors: N. Ogier, M-J. Amiot, S. Georgé, M. Maillot, C. Mallmann, et al.

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