Common hydrocolloid may reduce cholesterol levels: Study

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Cholesterol levels Cholesterol Atherosclerosis

The commonly used hydrocolloid hydroxypropylmethylcellulose (HPMC) may reduce cholesterol levels by over 20 per cent, suggests new research from the Dow Chemical Company.

The ingredient, commonly used as gum for foods, was found to reduce the LDL cholesterol levels in people with medium hypercholesterolaemia by 23.5 per cent, according to findings published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition​.

A growing number of studies are looking at the potential of hydrocolloids as health ingredients. However, hydrocolloids are currently used in foods at levels is well below that needed to exert a physiological effect, with the exception of gum arabic in Slim Fast

“As little as five grams per day of HPMC lowered LDL-cholesterol about 10 per cent with minor adverse effects, indicating that HPMC administration is an efficient and well-tolerated way of achieving reductions in cholesterol in mildly-hypercholesterolemic subjects,” ​wrote the authors.

High cholesterol levels, or hypercholesterolaemia, are a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD), which causes almost 50 per cent of deaths in Europe, and is reported to cost the EU economy an estimated €169bn ($202bn) per year.

According to the American Heart Association, 34.2 per cent of Americans (70.1m people) suffered from some form of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in 2002.

Study details

Two trials were conducted: The first involved 12 volunteers consuming different grades of HPMC medium, high, and ultra-high viscosity. The volunteers underwent four one-week study phases with one week between each phase. During the test phase they consumed 15 grams of HPMC per day.

At the end of this trial, the researchers noted that the LDL and total cholesterol levels of the volunteers in the medium group decreased by 9.3 and 15.3 per cent, respectively. In the high and ultra-high groups, the LDL and total cholesterol levels decreased by 16.9 and 23.5 per cent, and 13.8 and 19.4 per cent, respectively, compared to placebo.

The second trial involved 40 volunteers, and involved assigning them to receive either five or 15 grams of HPMC per day, or placebo, for eight weeks. At the end of this period, the total and LDL cholesterol levels were found to have decreased by 7 and 8 per cent, respectively, in the five gram group. In the higher dose group, total and LDL cholesterol levels decreased by 12 and 15 per cent, respectively.

The mechanism was proposed to involve disruption of fat digestion, as evidenced by increases in the excretion of fat in the faeces, said the researchers.

Comparison with other ingredients

“Cholesterol reduction with b-glucan, guar and psyllium is in the 5-10 per cent range, but their ‘dosage to efficacy’ ratio is higher than for HPMC,” ​wrote the researchers.

“The FDA approved the claim that about 10 g of psyllium per day lowers LDL-cholesterol 4.2 per cent. For oat-based b-glucan, the approved claim is for consumption of at least 40 g oat bran or at least 60 g oatmeal per day, which reportedly reduces LDL-cholesterol 5 per cent.

“By contrast, as little as 5 g/day HPMC lowered LDL-cholesterol about 10 per cent with minor adverse effects,”​ they concluded.

Further study is necessary to test for the potential benefits of using hydrocolloids as health ingredients, but other hydrocolloids, including guar gum and pectin, have also been reported to confer a range of health benefits.

Source: European Journal of Clinical Nutrition​Volume 63, Pages 71-77, doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602903“Hydroxypropylmethylcellulose significantly lowers blood cholesterol in mildly hypercholesterolemic human subjects”​Authors: C. Reppas, S.Z. Swidan, S.W. Tobey, M. Turowski, J.B. Dressman

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