Effective arteries are vital to the body’s health. Carrying blood which is rich in oxygen from the heart to all the other parts of the body, the arteries are a central part of our body and, if compromised, can cause all sorts of problems. Atherosclerosis is a condition where plaque builds up inside the arteries, partially blocking them and making it difficult for the blood to pass through and circulate around the body.
The plaque which develops inside the arteries comes from a number of substances in the blood, such as calcium, fat and cholesterol. The build-up of plaque reduces the amount of oxygenated blood circulating around the body, thus depleting the blood supply to the organs. This can lead to a number of serious health problems, including stroke, heart attack and, in severe cases, death.
Curcumin is a type of ginger and is one of the components which makes up the spice turmeric, most commonly found in South Eastern Asia. A distinctive yellow colour, it is often used in Asian dishes such as curries for its peppery flavour. Curcumin is one of the active ingredients of turmeric and is taken from the dried root of the turmeric plant. When processed, turmeric contains between 2% and 5% curcumin.
Previous evidence (Dec 2011)
In December 2011, a study considered whether naturally occurring elements of our diet might be successful in treating patients who were at risk of, or suffering from, atherosclerosis. Statins are the traditional treatment for those who suffer from high cholesterol levels, but researchers looked at whether the effect of curcumin on the development of plaque in the arteries could be similarly effective.
The 2011 research treated mice, and divided the study into a control group, a group being given lovastatin and a group who were administered curcumin. The mice were also given a high cholesterol diet and researchers looked at the effect of the different treatments on cholesterol levels and arterial lesions. Results found that curcumin lowered the levels of plasma cholesterol, triglycerides and other factors linked to atherosclerosis. Additionally, the curcumin group had a very similar effect to statins in increasing plasma HDL cholesterol (positive particles which remove fat molecules from the body’s cells).
It was concluded that the use of curcumin on a long term basis could reduce the levels of cholesterol building up in the arteries. In summary, curcumin could therefore have a positive effect on early atherosclerotic lesions, in a similar way to the conventionally employed statins.
New Evidence (2015)
More recently, further research has been done which shows additional evidence supporting the use of curcumin in patients at risk of atherosclerosis. Researchers knew that curcumin had several benefits for patients, including reducing inflammation, hyperlipidaemia (elevated levels of lipids, which are molecules found in the blood that can be either harmful or vital to our ongoing health) and atherosclerosis. In 2015 a new investigation looked at the effect of curcumin on the movement of cholesterol around the body and whether it could be beneficial in maintaining more balanced levels.
Results of the study demonstrated that curcumin could be extremely helpful in reinforcing the development of white blood cells (called macrophages) which allow the body to fight the harmful lipids. It was also found that curcumin may be able to assist in regulating the transfer of cholesterol in the body and therefore have a significant effect on reducing the severity of atherosclerosis in patients who are at risk.