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Can curcumin reduce cardiovascular risk factors?

Curcumin is thought to have multiple possible health benefits. This meta-analysis zeros in on its effects on cardiovascular risk factors.

Study under review: Efficacy and safety of turmeric and curcumin in lowering blood lipid levels in patients with cardiovascular risk factors: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.

Introduction

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the number one cause of death in the U.S., but some of the risk factors for CVD are modifiable. One of the most well-known risk factors are serum lipid levels, in particular LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Treatments that lower serum LDL[1] cholesterol have been shown to reduce risk for cardiovascular endpoints in at-risk populations. Additionally, preventive lifestyle interventions such as a healthy diet and exercise are highly effective and important to encourage, but even the most well meaning people can have problems with compliance. Researchers and healthcare practitioners alike are therefore interested in the potential properties of turmeric, and more specifically its active ingredient curcumin, for possible anti-inflammatory and lipid-lowering effects. Curcumin has long been touted[2] as having medicinal benefits, and the safety of curcumin, even at high doses[3], has been consistently demonstrated. Curcumin is a polyphenol shown in preclinical and clinical research to have anti-inflammatory[4] properties and its effects have been studied in people with numerous disease states[5][6][7]. In studies examining the effects of supplemental curcumin on participants with cancer, those receiving supplementation showed reduced levels of numerous proinflammatory biomarkers[2].

There are also several plausible mechanisms by which curcumin may affect cholesterol, which are summarized in Figure 1. However, the clinical evidence has been mixed. Though many of the studies are short term, some[8] show a significant effect of curcumin administration on total[9], LDL, or HDL cholesterol, although others do not[10]. The study under review attempted to gather all relevant clinical trials and pool the data to assess whether significant evidence exists showing a benefit for curcumin on cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Curcumin has been shown to lower proinflammatory markers and even blood lipids in clinical and preclinical trials, but the total evidence showing curcumin for heart health is limited. In the study under review, the authors pooled data from qualifying studies of curcumin or turmeric on heart health in order to assess evidence for a therapeutic effect of curcumin on CVD risk.

Who and what was studied

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The big picture

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Other Articles in Issue #40 (February 2018)