Artichokes and your heart

Artichoke can lower cholesterol levels, say researchers

By Shane Starling

03-Jul-2008 UK research has found artichoke leaf extract (ALE) can reduce cholesterol levels in healthy adults.

Levels dropped six per cent in otherwise healthy adults with raised cholesterol between a group given 1280mg of ALE per day and a control group taking a placebo.

“There was a modest, but statistically significant effect detectable between the two groups,” said lead researcher Dr Rafe Bundy, noting it was only the second randomised, double blinded, placebo controlled trial to be conducted on the cardioprotective effects of artichoke leaf extract.

“German researchers have been looking into the health properties of artichoke since the 1930s but previous trials were often not as robustly designed,” Dr Bundy told

“The results of this trial are encouraging and provide food for thought to conduct a similar trial among less healthy people.”

The researchers noted that in comparison with a previous RCT trial, published in 2000, the “apparent positive health status of the study population may have contributed to the modesty of the observed response.”

The Lichtwer Pharma-sponsored study measured the effect of Globe artichoke leaf extract consumption among 73 volunteers, about half of which were given a placebo.

The other half were given four 320mg Lichtwer Pharma-branded supplements per day for 12 weeks.

Plasma total cholesterol levels dropped on average 4.2 per cent and increased by 1.9 per cent among the control group, making a 6.1 per cent differential.

Public benefits

It is estimated coronary heart disease (CHD) costs the British public health system more than €5bn per year.

According to the Department of Health, 18 per cent of men and 22 per cent of women had raised cholesterol levels in 1998.

The main cause of CHD is atherosclerosis, which is the build-up of fatty deposits on artery walls.

The researchers, from the University of Reading, concluded: “This study provides further evidence that ALE may help reduce plasma total cholesterol in adults with mild to moderate hypercholesterolemia. It is suggested that the type and amount of extract used, in addition to the apparent positive health status of the study population, may have affected the observed magnitude of this response.”

The artichoke

Globe artichoke (Cynara Scolymus) is a member of the daisy family.

Its leaves have been used in Europe to improve digestive and urinary tract health. Recent studies indicate ALE can benefit dyspepsia and irritable bowel syndrome.

Extracts of the type used in the trial are commercially available in Germany and Switzerland as a remedy for indigestion, and are available in the UK as OTC food supplements.

The key components of ALE are caffeoylquinic acids (including cynarin and cholorogenic acid),  flavonoids, (including luteolin and derivatives, such as glucosides) and bitters (sesquiterpene lactones, including cynaropicrin).

Source: Phytomedicine
“Artichoke leaf extract (Cynara scolymus) reduces plasma cholesterol in otherwise healthy hypercholesterolemic adults”
Authors: Bundy, R., et al

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