Silymarin Helps Lower Cholesterol

By: Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist
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Many people are aware of the power of silymarin (milk thistle) to protect the liver and reduce the toxicity of chemical exposure. Fewer people are aware of the fact that silymarin also helps your liver process cholesterol in a more efficient manner, helping to lower levels of excessively high LDL cholesterol.

The research on silymarin and cholesterol got started with several animal studies in the late 1990s. Rabbits placed on a high-fat diet to develop atherosclerosis had significant benefit from silymarin1 – reducing LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides. Changes in their arteries that lead to plaque formation were significantly reduced in the silymarin group compared to the controls.  In rats fed a diet to induce high cholesterol2 silymarin boosted good HDL cholesterol while lowering LDL cholesterol content within the liver – changes that protect against the formation of plaque. 

The beginning of the plaque-formation process involves damage to LDL cholesterol and subsequent sticking of the damaged cholesterol by monocytes to the arterial wall. Another experiment showed that silymarin, via its antioxidant properties, helped prevent damage to LDL cholesterol3 and thereby reduced the amount of monocyte adhesion.

In 2006 a 4-month randomized double-blind clinical trial was conducted in Type 2I diabetic patients, some receiving 600 mg of silymarin per day4. The study showed that silymarin significantly lowered LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides.  It also lowered liver enzymes that reflect inflammation, blood sugar, and hemoglobin A1C. These are important positive changes in patients with a difficult metabolic problem that places them at high risk for cardiovascular disease.

In a study published last September men who went through prostate cancer surgery were placed on 570 mgs of silymarin5 for 6 months. This resulted in significantly less LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol.

Your liver is the main site of LDL cholesterol synthesis. Your liver can become clogged by fat in response to consuming too much food and actually increase the production of LDL cholesterol as a way to get excess fat out of your liver before it turns rancid and causes damage. It appears that silymarin not only offers superior protection for your liver in general, it helps your liver cope with the modern day trauma of eating too much food.

Referenced Studies:
  1. ^ Silymarin Lowers Cholesterol in Rabbits  Ann Acad Med Stetin.  Białecka M.
  2. ^ Silymarin Boosts HDL, Lowers LDL in Rats  Planta Med.  Krecman V, Skottová N, Walterová D, Ulrichová J, Simánek V.
  3. ^ Milk Thistle Protects LDL Cholesterol from Damage   J Agric Food Chem.  Wallace S, Vaughn K, Stewart BW, Viswanathan T, Clausen E, Nagarajan S, Carrier DJ.
  4. ^ Silymarin Lowers Cholesterol in Type 2 Diabetics  Phytother Res  Huseini HF, Larijani B, Heshmat R, Fakhrzadeh H, Radjabipour B, Toliat T, Raza M.
  5. ^ Silymarin Lowers Cholesterol in Men  Biomed Pap Med Fac Univ Palacky Olomouc Czech Repub.  Vidlar A, Vostalova J, Ulrichova J, Student V, Krajicek M, Vrbkova J, Simanek V.

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