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New research shows that Artichoke Leaf Extract lowers cholesterol – University of Reading

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New research shows that Artichoke Leaf Extract lowers cholesterol

Release Date 02 July 2008

Researchers at the University of Reading have found that an over-the-counter Artichoke Leaf Extract (ALE) from the globe artichoke plant can lower cholesterol in otherwise healthy individuals with moderately raised levels. Cardiovascular diseases are the chief causes of death in the UK, and are associated with raised circulating levels of total cholesterol in the plasma. Once plasma cholesterol reaches a certain level, drugs such as statins are often prescribed to help reduce it. Intervention before concentrations reaches these levels may help reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases without the need for drugs. This new piece of research has shown that otherwise healthy people with moderately raised plasma cholesterol may be able to lower their levels by taking this herbal supplement.

During the trial, 75 volunteers were given 1280mg (4 capsules) of an ALE, or matched placebo, each day for 12 weeks. ALE consumption resulted in a modest but favourable statistically significant reduction in total plasma cholesterol after the intervention period.

For over 10 years, the relationship between dietary intakes of antioxidant nutrients and a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases has been recognised and investigated. Antioxidant nutrients include 'non-essential' phytochemicals (e.g. flavonoids) as well as 'essential' nutrients (e.g. vitamins C, E). Several plant-rich sources of flavonoids, such as fruits and vegetables, tea, red wine, cocoa and olive oil, have been associated with lower risk of cardiovascular diseases, although the exact mechanisms for their protective effects is still not clear. Research has shown that ALEs are rich in various flavonoids.

Globe artichokes have been used traditionally in Europe to improve digestive and urinary tract health. Artichoke leaf extracts (ALEs) are currently used in Germany and Switzerland as a remedy for indigestion, and are available in the UK as over-the-counter food supplements. Various studies have provided an evidence base for their use in conditions such as dyspepsia and irritable bowel syndrome.

Dr Rafe Bundy said "Reducing cholesterol levels can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Our research investigated whether ALE 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. ALE may provide another option which people could try over and above a healthy diet in order to help lower plasma cholesterol."

ENDS

Notes to editors

For more information, please contact Dr Rafe Bundy on 0141 201 0768 or r.bundy@clinmed.gla.ac.uk

This work is published in the journal Phytomedicine:

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 (2008), doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2008.03.001

All of the research for this study was carried out at the University of Reading, but Dr Bundy has since moved to the University of Glasgow.

The University of Reading is ranked as one of the UK's top research-intensive universities. The quality and diversity of the University's research and teaching is recognised internationally as one of the top 200 universities in the world. The University is home to more than 50 research centres, many of which are recognised as international centres of excellence such as agriculture, biological and physical sciences, European histories and cultures, and meteorology.

The most recent Research Assessment Exercise confirms our strengths, with 20 departments being awarded top ratings of 5 or above. Of these, Archaeology, English, Italian, Meteorology and Psychology each received a 5** rating in recognition of their high quality sustained over more than a decade. The University takes a real-world perspective to its research and is consistently one of the most popular higher education choices in the UK.

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