The Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw®
Life Extension NewsTM
Volume 12 No. 5 • October 2009

More on Curcumin, a Major Constituent of
Turmeric: 50% Increase in HDL Levels in Rats Fed a
Curcumin-Supplemented High Cholesterol Diet!

Here is another way to increase HDL, at least in rats.1 As rodents handle cholesterol differently than humans, humans might not get exactly the same effects, though we would expect that the changes would be in the same direction. The results of this study are particularly interesting, as the feeding of a high cholesterol diet as a way to increase serum cholesterol levels would suggest cholesterol absorption as the main source for the increased serum cholesterol. As noted in the next article in this issue, increased cholesterol absorption and decreased cholesterol synthesis may be important changes in cholesterol homeostasis that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Hence, if curcumin can decrease cholesterol absorption in humans as this study suggests it does in rats; that would point to an anti-cardiovascular disease effect.

Male Swiss albino rats were fed a high cholesterol diet for seven days. Another group received the same diet but enriched with 0.5% w/w curcumin. A third group received peanut oil orally as a vehicle and served as controls. Unsurprisingly, the rats getting the high cholesterol diet (HCD) developed hypercholesterolemia, with high serum total cholesterol; serum HDL-C decreased by 21% as compared to controls. There was a 12-fold increase in serum LDL-C and a 16-fold increase in the LDL-C/HDL-C risk ratio compared to controls.

Supplementation with 0.5% curcumin had significant effects on serum lipids. Serum total cholesterol decreased by about 21% compared to rats fed the HCD alone. (The total cholesterol in the HCD-curcumin rats still had an increase of 122% compared to controls.) The most remarkable effect, however, was a 50% increase in serum HDL levels in the HCD-curcumin rats as compared to the rats getting the HCD diet alone. The researcher notes that the serum level of HDL-C actually exceeded normal values by 19%. The LDL-C/HDL-C ratio was lowered by 52% following curcumin intake compared to animals fed HCD alone.

As the author suggests, “[t]aken together, one could argue that the hypolipidemic effect of curcumin observed in the current study could possibly be ascribed to an effect on the absorption of cholesterol in the gut, especially [as] curcumin was admixed with the HCD.”

  1. Arafa. Curcumin attenuates diet-induced hypercholesterolemia in rats. Med Sci Monit 11(7):BR228-34 (2005).

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