Nutrients Role in Cholesterol Reduction
When discussing nutrition and health, it’s always helpful to remind ourselves what exactly a nutrient is. Biology Online defines a nutrient as food or any nourishing substance that is assimilated by an organism and required for the growth, repair and normal metabolism of that organism. Science has discovered at least 50 nutrients which could be coined as “essential”, meaning that the body must obtain these from outside sources due to the fact that it cannot simply create these nutrients. Examples of such nutrients include: oxygen, water, light, 20-21 amino acids, at least 13 vitamins, two essential fatty acids, and a source of carbohydrates for energy. When considering the definition of a nutrient in terms of promoting optimal health, one could argue that there are actually more, such as fiber for example.
I think studying human physiology is fascinating. It’s challenging to take an in-depth look at the speed at which nutrients are broken down and absorbed into the body; the steps that the body takes in an attempt to regulate proper amounts of substances (such as blood sugar for example) in order to prevent an imbalance or disease in the body as a whole is definitely not possible without the proper types and amounts of nutrients.
When it comes to regulating healthy levels of cholesterol and the ratios of the different lipoprotein particles that transport cholesterol through the bloodstream, there are a few factors and nutrients that can significantly impact the levels and rate of cholesterol production as well as the ratios of the lipoproteins. I’ll briefly describe a few such nutrients and how they have an impact.
The liver produces around an estimated 80% of the endogenous cholesterol (cholesterol that is produced within the body as opposed to obtained through the diet). Studies have shown that cholesterol production in the liver can also decrease when levels of dietary intake are increased. The liver also plays a significant role in eliminating cholestrol by enzymatically breaking it down into intermediates that are used for the production of bile acids.
Believe it or not, some nutrients can help assist the liver in bile acid production; they provide the body’s liver with the ingredients used in the recipe for producing bile. Such nutrients are artichoke extract, the amino acid taurine and phosphatidyl choline which is found in lecithin. Bile is used to emulsify and break up lipids and triglycerides into fatty acids and glycerol molecules to improve digestion of these nutrients. Bile produced after consuming a fatty meal is stored in the gallbladder where it builds up and eventually is released into the small intestine. Once rhe bile has completed its job of digesting fats, if the body lacks in the presence of soluble fiber to bind with the bile or the presence of phytosterols that compete with the absorption of cholesterol and its intermediates, the bile will be reabsorbed and the liver will carry the burden of once again trying to eliminate the excess cholesterol.
On PubMed (accessible on the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s website), a published study describes the results obtained from a multi-centered, placebo-controlled, randomized trial involving 143 patients with initial cholesterol levels greater than 280mg/dl. In the trial, patients took either a placebo or 450 mg of dry artichoke extract 4 times a day. After 6 weeks, the patients that took the artichoke extract showed 18.5% reduction in cholesterol compared to a 5.6% reduction in the placebo group. LDL cholesterol decreased by 22.9% in those taking the artichoke extract whereas the placebo group only showed a decrease of 6.3%. Among the artichoke users the LDL/HDL ratio decreased by 20.2%.
Erasmus, U. (1993) Fats that Heal Fats that Kill (pp. 5-6, 62-64 ) Summertown, TN: Alive Books
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10758778 (National Center for Biotechnology Information website)
Segala, M. & Needham, A. (2003) Life Extentions Foundation’s Disease Prevention and Treatment – Expanded Fourth Edition (p. 433) Hollywood, Florida: Life Extention Media