Does Fenugreek Lower Cholesterol?

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is a plant grown in South America, Asia, and the Middle East. The seeds are typically ground up into a powder and taken as a capsule. It is also used as a seasoning, by itself or in spice blends such garam masala.

Traditional Chinese and Indian medicine use fenugreek to improve digestive health and increase metabolism. You may have seen it advertised for these purposes in health food stores.

Studies have suggested that fenugreek may have a variety of other health benefits, including:

  • Lowering blood sugar levels
  • Treating head lice
  • Reducing heartburn

There is also some evidence that fenugreek may improve heart health by keeping your lipid levels within a healthy range. Lipids are fat-like substances that can accumulate in your blood. Cholesterol and triglycerides are both lipids.

This article looks at fenugreek and its effect on cholesterol. It also discusses some of the potential side effects of fenugreek.

High Angle View Of Fenugreek Seeds On Vintage Spoon At Table

Belen Martinez / Getty Images

Studies on Fenugreek and Cholesterol

Proponents say fenugreek can help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. There are only a few small studies that have looked into this effect.

A 2020 review analyzed the methods and results of 15 studies of fenugreek. Participants were either healthy, diabetic, or had high blood lipids such as high cholesterol. Fenugreek was given in different forms, such as powdered leaves, seed extract, or seed powder. There were large differences in the lengths of the studies, from two hours to three years.

Review authors concluded that there was some evidence that taking fenugreek supplements helps lower total cholesterol and triglycerides. However, the study's authors also said that more high-quality research is needed to confirm the findings.

Researchers don't know how fenugreek might lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. One theory is that fenugreek may have the ability to increase the number of LDL receptors in the liver. These are proteins that let cholesterol enter cells. An increase in LDL receptors could help cells remove LDL from the bloodstream.

Fenugreek also appears to reduce the accumulation of fat in the body. But this conclusion is based on animal studies, so it is not clear that it would have the same effect in people.

If you have high cholesterol, the American Heart Association recommends eating a diet low in saturated fat. For some patients, however, medication may be needed. Statins like Lipitor (atorvastatin) are usually the first choice for people who have cholesterol levels that can't be controlled with lifestyle changes.

Side Effects of Fenugreek

Some studies suggest that fenugreek can help slightly improve your lipid profile. More research is needed, though, before it can be recommended as a way to lower cholesterol. Don't rely on fenugreek alone if you need to lower your triglyceride and cholesterol levels.

In studies, participants who took fenugreek didn't seem to experience many side effects. Most appeared to tolerate it well. The most common side effects were:

  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea

Some studies also noted reduced blood sugar and potassium levels in people taking fenugreek supplements.

Before taking fenugreek or any other supplement, talk to your healthcare provider.

Summary

Fenugreek is said to have a number of health effects. Limited research suggests it may help lower total cholesterol and triglycerides. It's important to note, though, that more research needs to be done before fenugreek can be recommended as part of any cholesterol-lowering plan.

Fenugreek may have side effects, like nausea or bloating. Make sure to talk to your healthcare provider before you decide to try taking fenugreek supplements.

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8 Sources
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