Artichoke leaf extract 'reduces cholesterol,' say UK experts

An over-the-counter artichoke leaf extract from the globe artichoke plant can lower cholesterol in otherwise healthy individuals with moderately raised levels, according to researchers at the UK's University of Reading.

In a trial, 75 volunteers were given four capsules, or 1,280mg, of an artichoke leaf extract, or matched placebo, each day for 12 weeks. Artichoke leaf extract consumption resulted in a modest but favourable statistically significant reduction in total plasma cholesterol after the intervention period.

Plasma total cholesterol decreased in the treatment group by an average of 4.2% and increased in the control group by an average of 1.9%. No significant differences between groups were observed for LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol or triglyceride levels. The results of the study were published in the journal Phytomedicine.

Dr Rafe Bundy, who led the study, said "Reducing cholesterol levels can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Our research investigated whether artichoke leaf extract could be beneficial to otherwise healthy people who had raised levels of cholesterol but were not yet at a stage where they needed standard medical intervention. Artichoke leaf extract may provide another option which people could try over and above a healthy diet in order to help lower plasma cholesterol."

Globe artichokes have been used traditionally in Europe to improve digestive and urinary tract health. Various studies have provided an evidence base for their use in conditions such as dyspepsia and irritable bowel syndrome.

Reference: Bundy R., et al. Artichoke leaf extract (Cynara scolymus) reduces plasma cholesterol in otherwise healthy hypercholesterolemic adults: a randomised double-blind placebo controlled trial. Phytomedicine, DOI: 10.1016/j.phymed.2008.03.001

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