Science Update

Recent Study Explores Potential Role of Nutraceuticals in Supporting Healthy Cholesterol Metabolism

Changes in lipid metabolism can be due to age, lifestyle factors, or other systemic conditions and may increase the risk of certain cardiovascular disorders. Specific vitamins, minerals, and other nutraceuticals have been recently studied for their potential to help support lipid homeostasis. A recently published review by Cheung and colleagues explored the potential role of certain nutraceuticals in supporting lipid metabolism. This comprehensive review included data from studies involving over 30 different vitamins, minerals, and nutraceuticals. 

Vitamin E was reported in this review as a supportive agent for healthy lipid metabolism. Tocotrienols are forms of vitamin E isomers that have been shown in research to possess properties, distinct from tocopherols, that support antioxidative status, cardiometabolic health, and a healthy inflammatory response. Tocotrienols have also been shown to help suppress pro-inflammatory markers, including interleukin (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), C-reactive protein, malondialdehyde, and inhibit the nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) pathway. Clinical studies have explored the potential role of delta-tocotrienol in support of optimal lipid metabolism; healthy inflammatory status, oxidative stress, cholesterol metabolism, and cardiovascular health have been reported. 

Bergamot (Citrus bergamia Risso) is a flavonoid-rich citrus plant that has been researched for its support of antioxidative status and cardiovascular health. In clinical studies, amounts of bergamot ranging from 200 to 1500 mg daily were shown to help support certain parameters related to lipid metabolism and cardiovascular health. These include the inhibition of HMG-CoA reductase, activation of AMPK, increases in fecal excretion of bile acids, and radical scavenging activity alongside improvements in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C). 

Berberine is an extract derived from the botanicals goldenseal, Oregon grape, and barberry that has been shown to help support healthy blood sugar and lipid metabolism. Berberine may help decrease intestinal absorption of cholesterol and may help promote the synthesis of bile acids. In a three-month, randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial (n=97) investigating the effects of 300 mg/day berberine supplementation on individuals with mild hyperlipidemia, the treatment group experienced significant reductions in total cholesterol and LDL-C levels. A systematic review and meta-analysis including data from over 1,300 participants examined berberine’s complementary role in hyperlipidemia and found that berberine significantly reduced total cholesterol and LDL-C levels when compared with placebo. A separate meta-analysis reported similar findings and included berberine’s ability to support healthy triglycerides.

Lastly, alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) may help support certain aspects of cardiovascular health. ALA may help support healthy levels of glutathione and nuclear factor erythroid 2–related factor 2 (Nrf2) activity. It also plays an important role in redox reactions related to glutathione and helps to modulate endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) expression, which is primarily expressed in the cardiovascular system. The activity of eNOS is thought to play a role in vascular homeostasis (blood vessel function), vasodilation, and the production of nitric oxide.

Cheung and colleagues conclude that certain nutraceuticals including bergamot, berberine, and plant sterols help support several aspects of lipid metabolism. Evidence suggests that tocotrienols and certain other vitamins and minerals may help support cardiovascular health, lipid homeostasis, and optimal vascular endothelial function. Furthermore, research indicates that a Mediterranean-style diet may also help support cardiovascular health and many other body systems. 

By Dr. C. Ambrose, ND, MAT