Atherosclerosis is a disease which causes gradual narrowing of artery walls which hinders blood flow. This occurs because of the progressive build-up of a substance called plaque around the artery walls.
Plaque is composed of fat, cholesterol, lipids, and other substances found in blood. This obstructs the reach of oxygen-carrying blood to the organs in the body. If not given proper attention, it may lead to risky problems such as coronary heart disease.
While the exact cause of the disease is unknown, doctors claim that its occurrence is largely dependent on an individual’s diet and lifestyle.
Consumption of copious amounts of junk food, lack of exercise or smoking may increase the risk of developing atherosclerosis. Doctors also claim that genetic predisposition to cardiac problems could also be a contributing factor.
Artery hardening may take place slowly and might not show any signs or symptoms. In fact, the first signal may be a heart attack or stroke.
Therefore, regular check-ups and maintenance of healthy weight are essential to avoid such conditions. Once detected, atherosclerosis may be treated using medication or even surgery to unblock clogged arteries.
Table of Contents
- What are Turmeric and Curcumin?
- Benefits of Curcumin for Atherosclerosis
- Dosage of Curcumin for Atherosclerosis
What are Turmeric and Curcumin?
Curcumin is a naturally yellow compound which is a key component of the Indian spice, turmeric. It has been used throughout history as it is believed to display excellent healing properties.
Scientists have recently gained interest in its use as a pharmacological agent as it regulates cell signals and aids several disease conditions. Most notably, it is a highly potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent.
Benefits of Curcumin for Atherosclerosis
Curcumin can benefit in Atherosclerosis in several ways. Curcumin help improve the permeability of the arteries. Curcumin is one of the best natural anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant agent these are major reasons for atherosclerosis. Curcumin also suppresses cholesterol accumulation, regulates cholesterol metabolism and prevents from adverse effects of a high-fat diet. Lastly, curcumin has cardioprotective properties.
It, therefore, bears potential to lessen the impact of atherosclerosis. This can be illustrated by the following studies:
1. It increases artery permeability
In 2015, the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Pathology published a study which was based on the use of curcumin in an animal model of atherosclerosis.
It was carried out to examine the effect of the compound on permeability and protein expression in the coronary artery.
They saw that curcumin could curb the negative changes caused by plaque on artery walls. Lipidosis (a disorder of lipid metabolism in the body tissues) was significantly reduced in the curcumin-treated group of rats.
This in turn, helped increase artery wall permeability, enabling steady blood flow.
What does this mean?
Through the administration of curcumin, the study of the protein expression of the carotid artery of the subjects involved showed that the detrimental morphological effects brought about by atherosclerosis were significantly brought down through increased permeability of the artery walls.
2. It has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects
Inflammation of artery walls and accumulation of free radicles are major contributors to a process called atherogenesis. This is the process by with adhesion of cells occurs along the endothelial surfaces of the arteries. Over time, this forms harmful plaque.
Researchers have conducted extensive studies on curcumin to conclude its highly potent anti-inflammatory effects. They show that curcumin blocks several pro-inflammatory markers and exerted anti-atherogenic capabilities within a 4-month period.
Studies have indicated that curcumin plays an active role in halting damaging artery processes mediated by oxidative stress as well.
These primarily include free radical-mediated alteration of membranes of immune cells(macrophages) through reactions with their lipid components.
Coupled with its anti-inflammatory effects, curcumin’s free radical scavenging capacity makes it useful for therapy of atherosclerosis cases.
What does this mean?
Curcumin could be potentially used as to eradicate harmful free radicals which cause the resistance to blood flow through arteries. It reduces oxidative stress along with improving anti-inflammatory enzyme activity.
3. It suppresses cholesterol accumulation
Considering the growing popularity of the compound and its increased usage, scientists decided to analyze its efficiency in reducing lipid-related reactions.
This study was conducted to evaluate the levels of LDL-induced cholesterol accumulation in macrophages post administration of curcumin.
It was seen that the concentration of the lipids and cholesterol was brought down significantly along with lowering the rate of lipid peroxidation (degradation of lipids by oxidative damage).
This was brought about through modulation of expression of proteins such as SR-A, ABCA1, ABCG1, and SR-BI.
In 2015, Canfran Duque A et al. saw that curcumin administration could help normalize cholesterol metabolism in
exosomes (cell-derived vesicles) which had been treated with antipsychotics.
Antipsychotics are known to disrupt cholesterol metabolism and cause lipid accumulation. However, curcumin was seen to ameliorate this condition.
What does this mean?
Since the compound, curcumin present in turmeric is capable lowering lipids and cholesterol, it has potential to be used for atherosclerosis treatment.
4. It protects from adverse effects of high-fat diet
Research has suggested that the Fatty acid binding proteins (FABP-4/aP2) and CD36 expression are crucial to controlling of lipid accumulation and oxidation.
Their functioning can get disturbed over time through consumption of fatty foods and an unhealthy diet.
However, curcumin provides a suitable natural treatment for this. Hasan St et al.’s investigative study showed that the compound could target a multitude of molecular pathways responsible for high fat diet-induced atherogenesis and inflammation.
Lipid oxidation by macrophages was brought down significantly along with reduced weight gain.
Curcumin could behave as an anti-atherogenic agent through modulating the activity of certain transcription factors such as Forkhead box O3a (FOXO3a).
These properties have been tested in an animal model of high-fat-diet-induced atherosclerosis and have displayed positive results.
What does this mean?
Experimental trials with curcumin for atherosclerosis treatment have shown positive results due to its transcription factor regulatory activity. This activity of curcumin can be used for lowering lipid oxidation rates effectively.
5. It regulates cholesterol metabolism
Lowering of cholesterol is essential to lessening the impact of atherosclerosis and preventing the development of heart problems. To achieve this, lipid metabolism rates need to be monitored.
A 2011Molecular Nutrition and Food Research study illustrated how curcumin had decreased occurrence of atherosclerotic lesions and lipid accumulation in cells. This, in turn, resulted in suppression of HMG-CoA reductase (a cholesterol controlling gene) as well.
The results obtained from this study showed that curcumin could produce positive effects comparable to that of lovastatin (a common drug used for hypercholesterolemia treatment).
What does this mean?
The curcumin in turmeric possesses statin type properties i.e. it can enhance hepatic lipid metabolism. It monitors cholesterol levels enabling it a useful to treat atherosclerosis.
6. Curcumin is a Cardioprotective agent
Heart problems can arise as a direct effect of plaque accumulation along the arteries, for instance, Ischemic heart disease or heart attacks.
It is believed that curcumin protects heart function by modulation of several molecular mechanisms.
This was investigated by Abderrahim Nemmar et al. where they saw that curcumin treatment enhanced resistance to diesel exhaust particle (DEP, a compound that causes inflammation and artery-damaging events).
Atherosclerosis and coagulation were also mitigated, in turn, preventing pulmonary and cardiovascular disorders.
What does this mean?
The administration of curcumin activates the behavior-modulating mechanisms in the arteries. This ability to manipulate cell signals and reactions imparts blood profile attenuating ability to the compound.
Dosage of Curcumin for Atherosclerosis
A specific dosage of curcumin has not been prescribed for atherosclerosis.
However many studies utilize a dose of 300mg twice a day for such conditions.
Most research studies utilize a dose of 500-1000mg of curcumin per day. It is best to consult a doctor for the appropriate dosage and formulation of curcumin.
The most commonly used curcumin supplements are standardized 95% curcumin extract with bioperine. Curcumin requires piperine or fats for absorption.
However, you can go through other curcumin supplement formulations here that aid in increasing bioavailability of curcumin. (Read 8 Popular Curcumin supplement types)
Always start with a low dosage and increase gradually over weeks. Curcumin supplements are best taken after meals and avoid taking them at the same time as any other medication. Maintain a 3-4 hour gap.
Turmeric in the diet is safe, and most studies have demonstrated that curcumin, even at high dosages, is safe.
However, a few precautions must be noted (Read Side effects & Precautions of Curcumin)
Rule out any allergies with turmeric and curcumin.
Avoid taking curcumin supplements on an empty stomach as they may trigger acid reflux in susceptible individuals.
Gastric discomfort is possible with the sudden introduction of curcumin, especially at high doses. Start with small dosages and increase gradually over weeks to recommended dosages to minimize gastric side effects. In the case of serious gastric side effects, discontinue use of curcumin.
Curcumin interferes with drug metabolism. Hence it is advised to avoid taking curcumin supplements at the same time as taking other medicines. Maintain a 3-4 hour gap. Also, consult a health practitioner with regards to this to avoid any drug interactions.
Curcumin has blood thinning activity. If taking blood thinners or suffering from a bleeding /clotting disorder, it is advisable to avoid curcumin supplements in this case. (Read Is turmeric a blood thinner?) Consult a health practitioner with regards to this.
Discontinue curcumin supplements two weeks before surgical procedures to avoid bleeding risk.
If suffering from gallstones or bile duct obstructions, avoid curcumin supplements. (Read Is turmeric safe in gallstones?)
Avoid turmeric supplements in pregnancy and lactation.
Ensure that you opt for good quality curcumin supplements that are free from toxicity, heavy metal contamination, fillers or additives.
It is best to take curcumin supplements with Bioperine or other agents that increase its bioavailability.
Consult a health practitioner before taking curcumin supplements.
Through the above studies, we can see that curcumin offers a variety of benefits for the elimination of plaque developing along the walls of the arteries. As a result, the scientists are now trying to use the compound to develop formulations to aid this condition.
The compound possesses highly potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Therefore, it is advisable for showing signs of atherosclerosis to try curcumin. The results will surely not disappoint.