Can Turmeric Lower Your Cholesterol Levels?

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If you’ve ever eaten Eastern Asian or Middle Eastern cuisine, there’s a good chance that you have probably encountered turmeric. Turmeric is a yellow colored powder that is often used as a food-coloring agent and as a spice in a variety of foods. It belongs to the ginger family and has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine to treat inflammation, infections, and various gastrointestinal ailments.

The medicinal properties of its active ingredient, curcumin, have been known for centuries. Although turmeric is currently most notable for its antioxidant, anticancer and anti-inflammatory properties, there has been recent talk about its ability to lower cholesterol.

Does Turmeric Lower Cholesterol?

The research on turmeric so far appears to be very favorable. Unfortunately, most of these studies have only involved animals. From these studies, it appears that turmeric mainly affects total cholesterol,  LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. One study conducted on rabbits fed a high-fat diet showed that turmeric appeared to lower LDL cholesterol levels and triglycerides, as well as preventing LDL from being oxidized. Oxidized LDL has been shown to contribute to the formation of atherosclerosis. The cholesterol-lowering effects of turmeric have remained consistent in these studies. 

Although this information appears promising, there is one hitch: there are hardly any studies that have looked at the ability of turmeric to lower cholesterol levels in humans.

Since it does lower lipids in animals, it is thought that turmeric may also do the same in humans. However, the dosage and function of turmeric in humans in lowering cholesterol and triglycerides is still under investigation. The few, small studies that have examined the lipid-lowering effect of turmeric or its active ingredient, curcumin, noted that while there is slightly lowered total and LDL cholesterol levels, it is not a significant reduction.

In these studies, people consumed anywhere between 60 mg and 1 gram of curcumin for up to six months.

Should You Include Turmeric in Your Diet?

Although animal studies appear to show that including turmeric can positively affect your lipids, there are very few studies conducted in humans. People that consumed turmeric or its active ingredient, curcumin, did not see a significantly positive effect on their cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Despite this, turmeric could still be used as a spice to include in your diet due to its other healthy properties - and especially if you are looking for healthy alternatives to use to spice up your foods.

If you are interested in using turmeric in your cooking, there are many recipes available. Because its lipid-lowering ability is still being studied, there is no recommended amount of turmeric to consume. Therefore, you should follow the directions of your favorite recipes using turmeric for guidance. However, if are thinking about including high levels of turmeric in your diet or wish to consume it as a supplement, you should make sure that you consult your healthcare provider first.

High amounts of this spice may aggravate certain medical conditions, including certain gastrointestinal conditions, diabetes, and bleeding disorders.

Sources:

Alwi I, Santoso T, Suyono T et al. . The effect of curcumin on lipid level in patients with acute coronary syndrome. Acta Med.Indones. 2008;40:201-210.

Baum L, Cheung SK, Mok VC, et al. Curcumin effects on blood lipid profile in a 6-month human study. Pharmacol Res 2007;56:509-514.

Joshi J, Ghaisas S, Vaidya A, et al. Early human safety study of turmeric oil (Curcuma longa oil) administered orally in healthy volunteers. J Assoc.Physicians India 2003;51:1055-1060.

Natural Standard. (2014). Turmeric [Monograph]. Retrieved from http://naturalstandard.com/databases/hw/all/patient-turmeric.asp

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