Cholesterol, the soft, waxy substance present among the lipids (fats) in the bloodstream an in all cells, is important for wide variety of physiological functions. It is essential for the formation of cellular membranes, necessary for the production of bile salts, and also plays a role in the synthesis of certain hormones.Cholesterol is both produced by the body and obtained from food. Endogenous cholesterol is formed by human cells, particularly liver cells, whereas exogenous cholesterol is absorbed though the gastrointestinal tract from food. Because cholesterol can not be metabolized for energy, it must be removed from the body once it has served its function. The major route of removal is through the liver, where it is processed and subsequently excreted from the body.
Cholesterol is lipophilic (“fat loving” or water insoluble) by nature. It can not be dissolved in the blood, and must, therefore, be transported by carriers known as lipoproteins. The carriers are classified by density, with LDL (low density lipoproteins) and HDL (high density lipoproteins) being the most common. LSL is often referred to as “bad” cholesterol. LDLs carry cholesterol throughout the body. Conversely, HDL or “good” cholesterol is responsible for carrying cholesterol away from the arteries to the liver where it is eventually processed and eliminated from the body. Scientific studies have shown that both types of cholesterol are important indicators cardiovascular health. But recent research, focusing on the beneficial subtypes of HDL, has found that certain fractions of HDL may be more supportive of cardiovascular health than others. The most notably supportive HDL fractions are HDL-2 and HDL-3. The smaller HDL-3 is synthesized by the liver and intestines. This form, which is known as “free cholesterol-rich: HDL, scavenges or “coops up” free cholesterol. The cholesterol is then chemically altered by the addition of ester group. When sufficient cholesterol is esterified. HDL-3 becomes HDL-2, which is therefore referred to as “cholesterol ester-rich” HDL. HDL-2 is larger in size and has been shown to be more cardio supportive than HDL-3.
HDL is known to possess antioxidant activity and to help balance the body's natural anti inflammatory response, both of which are important for cardiovascular health, but its most important function is the role it plays in cholesterol transport. High levels of HDL cholesterol are also associated with reduced platelet activity, another key indicator of arterial and venous health.Both HDL and LDL levels are important indicators of health cardiovascular function. Therefore, supplements that increase the level of good cholesterol can profoundly impact heart health. In 2002, an open label pilot study was conducted at Scripps Memorial Hospital to evaluate the effects of a proprietary supplement on lipid profiles. The dietary supplement, which mirrors HDL Booster and contains a combination of antioxidants, B-vitamins, amino acids, and botanical extracts, was developed by Dr. Goodman, the leading cardiologist at Scripps. The trial involved 50 people, who were evaluated prior to the study, then again at three and six months. After three months of supplementation, good cholesterol levels increased in all groups. The changes were more pronounced at the six month time point, where good cholesterol rose up to 23 percent and levels of HDL-2 (the best cholesterol) increased 50 percent in one subset of participants (HDL<40 mg/dL). Additionally, the supplement also helped maintain healthy triglycerides levels that were already within the normal ranges. Decreases in homocysteine, an amino acid found in the blood that plays a role in cardiovascular health, were observed as well.
The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) has established the guidelines for the detection and evaluation of cholesterol. Though the desirable level of HDL has been set as greater than 40mg/dL, and HDL reading above 60 is now recognized as having a positive impact on heart health. Below is a chart providing NCEP's guidelines.
Serum Cholesterol Desirable Borderline High/High risk
Total (mg/dL) <200 200-239 =>240
LDL (mg/dL) <130 130-159 =>160
HDL(mg/dL) >40 <35
Gum guggul is extracted from the resinous (sticky) part of the myrrh tree (commiphora mukul). Long used to help manage lipids and weight in the ancient tradition of Ayurveda (India’s “science of life’), guggul is believed to have a favorable impact on triglycerides and other potentially harmful blood fats. Scientists have identified the active ingredients in guggul to be guggulsterones, which may be responsible for the positive outcomes in several clinical studies (shields 2005)
Some of the best news on guggul-sterones comes from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. Dr. Nancy Urizar (2003) and David Moore, both researchers at Baylor, published a review of modern studies on guggul in the Annual Review of Nutrition. The scientists concluded in their review that clinical studies “have generally reported a 10% to 20% benefit in triglyceride levels and a20% to 30% favorable impact on cholesterol levels: (Urizar 2003)
In the largest reported study, which involved a total of 205 individuals, supplementation with guggul for 12 weeks yielded significant benefits in serum cholesterol (24%) and triglyceride (23%) levels. In addition, favorable changes in blood fats were found in 70%-80% of the participants, Recent studies suggest that gugglesterones help maintain lipid balance by restraining a bile acid receptor called farnesoid X receptor (FXR) (Urizar 2003)
Policosanol, extract from sugar-cane wax also significantly promotes healthy lipid levels. The results of two clinical studies led by Dr. Gladys Castano (2001, 2003) have illustrated policosanol’s potential to help maintain lipid levels already in normal range.
In the first study, Castano (2001) and her team of investigators evaluated the impact of policosanol in 179 older individuals with lipid concerns and two or more other risk factors related to cardiovascular health,. Half the participants were given a placebo while the other half were given five milligrams of policosanol for 12 weeks, followed by 10 milligrams of policosanol for the next 12 weeks. The researchers found that both dosages of policosanol significantly and favorably affected total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and even HDL (high0denisty lipoprotein or “good” cholesterol, which helps escort the unwanted lipids out of the bloodstream (Castano 2001)
Encouraged by their initial findings, the same team of researchers later launched another study that was published in 2003. In this follow-up study, the researchers randomly divided 75 individuals between the ages of 60 to 80 into two groups. The groups received either policosanol or placebo for eight weeks, followed by one month of eating a diet specifically designed to lower cholesterol. The researchers found than after four weeks, the policosanol group experienced positive changes in lipid levels by 17.5% : after eight weeks , the effects jumped to 23.1%. A welcome 15.4% influence on triglyceride levels was slo noted in the policosanol-suppelemented group (castano 2003)
According to the USDA, frappe seed extract activates a specific receptor that leads to “(benefits) in blood triglyceride levels “ (Pons 2004). The grape seed is an excellent source of super potent antioxidants called proanthyocyanidins. The results of a series of Japanese studies published in the journal Biofactors since 193 suggests that proanthocyanidisn’s antioxidant activities are even stronger than those of vitamins C and E, they have the ability to support the health of major blood vessels, the gastrointestinal tract, and the eyes and they even help the body process glucose (Ariga 2004)
Niacin or Vitamin B3 has been studied extensively for its potential to benefit cardiovascular health by positively influencing levels of HDL cholesterol (the “good” kind). This important B vitamin may also be useful tool in managing triglycerides. In 2005, researchers published the results of meta-analysis of data from 30 trial of niacin that included a total population of over 4,000 individuals,.The results showed that niacin supplementation benefited triglycerides by 20% and had a favorable impact of HDL, LDL, and total cholesterol (Birjmohun 2005).
Gynostemma maintain normal cholesterol and triglyceride levels Scientific studies have show jiaogulan's ability to lower serum cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL (bad cholesterol), while increasing HDL (good cholesterol). Crude Gypenosides were tested for their effect on lipid metabolism in rats fed with high-sugar, high-fat diets. It was found that Gypenosides reduced levels of serum triglycerides (as important a marker as cholesterol), total cholesterol, phospholipids and lipid peroxidation.