Is Fenugreek Able to Improve Your Cholesterol Levels?

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is a plant commonly grown in regions such as South America, Asia , and the Middle East. The seeds of the plant are typically ground up into a powder and taken as a capsule or sprinkled onto food.

Fenugreek has been used for many centuries in Chinese and Indian medicine for improving digestive health and increasing metabolism. You've probably seen fenugreek as a supplement in health foods stores advertised for these purposes. Additionally, studies have shown that fenugreek has a variety of other health benefits including lowering blood sugar levels, treating head lice, and reducing heartburn. Fenugreek is also used as part of garam masala, a blending of spices that is added to various dishes in South Asian cuisine.

There is also some evidence that fenugreek may also improve heart health by keeping your lipid levels within a healthy range but does it really work?

High Angle View Of Fenugreek Seeds On Vintage Spoon At Table
Belen Martinez / EyeEm / Getty Images

What the Studies Say

There are only a few small studies looking at fenugreek’s effectiveness in lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels. The people participating in these studies were either healthy or diabetic and had slightly elevated cholesterol levels. In these studies, anywhere between 5 and 100 grams of a powdered form of fenugreek seeds was taken as a supplement for a time period ranging from 20 days to three months.

In some of these studies, a slightly positive effect was noted total cholesterol, triglycerides, HDL and LDL cholesterol levels, including: 

  • Total cholesterol levels were lowered by up to 16 percent in some cases.
  • LDL cholesterol levels were decreased by anywhere between 10 percent and 16 percent.
  • There was only a very slight effect to no effect on triglyceride levels.
  • HDL cholesterol was increased by up to 11 percent in one study, but only very slightly increased in others.

In other studies, fenugreek supplementation did not appear to affect lipid levels.

It isn’t completely known how fenugreek lowers cholesterol and triglyceride levels. It is thought that fenugreek has the ability to increase the number of LDL receptors in the liver which increases the amount of LDL taken up by cells and removed from the bloodstream. Fenugreek also appears to reduce the accumulation of fat in the body.

Should You Use Fenugreek?

Although some studies appear to suggest that fenugreek can help slightly improve your lipid profile, more studies are needed before it can be recommended as part of your cholesterol-lowering regimen. Therefore, you shouldn’t solely rely only on taking fenugreek if you are needing to lower your triglyceride and cholesterol levels.

The people taking fenugreek in these studies did not appear to experience a lot of side effects, and it appeared to be well-tolerated by most. The more common side effects included bloating, diarrhea and nausea, However, some studies also noted reduced blood sugar and potassium levels in people taking fenugreek supplements. Therefore, even though fenugreek is widely available as a supplement in various health stores, you should still consult with your healthcare provider before adding fenugreek to your lipid-lowering regimen.

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