|Guggul Tree Lowers Cholesterol
Texas researchers believe the people of ancient India might have been way ahead of Western medicine's ability to lower cholesterol levels by using the sap of a tree indigenous to India.
In report in the May 3 issue of the journal Science, scientists at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston said tests show extracts from the resin or sap of the guggul tree appear to lower cholesterol by targeting a receptor in the liver's cells called the Farnesoid X Receptor or FXR.
This receptor is key in regulating cholesterol by controlling bile acid levels. Cholesterol produces bile acid, which then is released by the liver. Guggulsterone, the active ingredient in the extract, effectively works by blocking FXR.
Lead researcher David Moore, professor molecular and cell biology who tested a guggulsterone product on himself, said the findings indicate FXR could be a possible target for pharmaceutical companies developing drugs to improve cholesterol metabolism.
"We knew that FXR was unusual in that it was able to respond to lots of different compounds," Moore told United Press International.
"Our next step is to try and find out how it works biochemically."
Moore found information about the guggul tree from the Internet and then tried Guggulipid, a cholesterol-lowering supplement already sold in health food stores. He said it behaved much like the popular cholesterol-fighting drugs called statins. Guggulipid claimed to influence weight loss, but Moore said he did not find that to be the case.
How guggulsterone works is unclear, Moore added.
Guggelsterone has been used in traditional Indian medicine for more than 2,500 years and Indian medical literature from the past 40 years supports the benefits of guggul extract.
"I think it's entirely reasonable that there's going to be lots of plants and herbal products out there we'll discover that will have significant effects," on cholesterol, Richard A. Stein, a spokesman for the American Heart Association and chief of cardiology at Brooklyn Hospital in New York, told UPI.
The problem, Stein said, is that more remains unknown about these plants and herbs than is known.
"There are hundreds, sometimes thousands of bioactive agents when you take a plant or an herb," he said. "It's not like you're taking a clean, single medicine."
Copyright 2002 by United Press International.