Lowering Cholesterol With Artichoke Leaf Extract

Artichoke in Baskets, Fresh Spring Vegetables at Farmer's Market
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Artichoke leaf extract is derived from artichokes (Cynara scolymus). This plant belongs to the daisy family and is native to areas such as southern Europe and northern Africa. It is a delicious accompaniment to many dishes, and its leaves have been traditionally used to treat ailments like jaundice, acid reflux, and various liver disorders. Research studies are showing that artichoke may have a new niche: lowering  cholesterol.

How Well Can Artichokes Lower Cholesterol?

Unfortunately, the studies are mixed regarding the use of artichokes in lowering cholesterol. Most only involve examining the effects of artichoke leaf extract, which is also widely available as a supplement. One study found that total cholesterol levels were lowered by 18.5% compared to 8.6% in those individuals taking a placebo. Additionally, LDL cholesterol was lowered by 22.9%, compared with 6% of those taking a placebo. To see this difference, the participants in this study had to take at least 1800 mg of artichoke leaf extract for roughly 6 weeks.

Although a few studies have found that total cholesterol levels were lowered by between 5% to 45% in those taking artichoke leaf extract, many other studies have found no significant difference. Additionally, the majority of these studies found that triglycerides and HDL do not appear to be greatly affected by artichoke leaf extract.

The average amount of artichoke leaf extract taken in these studies ranged between 1800 to 1900 mg daily for at least 6 weeks. During the studies, the only significant side effects noted were hunger, flatulence, and weakness.

How Does Artichoke Lower Cholesterol?

The manner by which artichokes lower cholesterol is not fully known.

It is thought that artichokes may indirectly interact with the same protein that statins interact with to lower cholesterol. Called HMGCoA reductase, this enzyme plays an important role in the making of cholesterol.

Artichokes also contain antioxidants, such as flavonoids. These chemicals are also in a variety of other, colorful vegetables and fruits and are thought to play a role in lowering the oxidation of LDL, which contributes to atherosclerosis.

Including Artichokes in Your Diet

Artichokes are a healthy alternative to consuming other high-fat foods, but they should not be solely relied upon to lower your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Although there are also several forms of artichoke extract supplements commercially available, they might not lend the other nutrients that an actual artichoke can contribute to your diet. Because artichoke leaf extract supplements may interact with other medical conditions that you have or medications you are taking, you should talk to your healthcare provider before including them in your health regimen.

There are plenty of ways to include artichokes in your cholesterol-lowering diet. Artichokes can be lightly sautéed, roasted, grilled, or consumed raw.

Just be careful not to cook your artichokes in heavy fats or fry them - this can add more calories and saturated fat to your dish.

View Article Sources
  • Bundy R, Walker AF, Middleton RW. Artichoke leaf extract reduces plasma cholesterol in otherwise healthy hypercholesterolemic adults: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Phytomedicine 2008 Sep;15(9):668-75
  • Pittler MH, Thompson CJ, Ernst E. Artichoke leaf extract for treating hypercholesterolemia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2008;3:CD003335
  • Rondanelli M, Giacosa A, Opizzi A et al. Beneficial effects of artichoke leaf extract supplementation on increasing HDL-cholesterol in subjects with primary mild hypercholesterolemia: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Int J Food Sci Nutr 2013; 64:7-15.