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Reversing Atherosclerosis

by Warren Cargal, L. Ac.

If you have had your cholesterol checked, you get a report indicating your total cholesterol, HDL (sometimes referred to as “good cholesterol), LDL (sometimes referred to as “bad” cholesterol) and triglycerides.

I wanted to discuss what makes HDL good and why it is important to keep the HDL above 50mg/dl of blood.

HDL (high density lipoprotein) removes cholesterol (a component of plaque) from arterial walls. HDL also protects LDL (low density lipoprotein) against oxidation and protects the endothelium (inner wall of the artery) from inflammation- one of the primary factors that cause atherosclerosis.

HDL needs an enzyme to perform these functions called paraoxonase-1 (PON-1) and as life would have it as we age that enzyme begins to decline.

PON-1 is an enzyme produced in the liver and it attaches solely to the HDL molecule. PON-1 selectively breaks down oxidized fats, acting as a cleanup system to prevent these oxidized molecules from triggering an inflammatory response in the blood.

Individuals suffering from obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and elevated homocysteine have all been shown to have low PON-1 levels.

Strong evidence has recently emerged that several compounds Resveratrol and Pomegranate, can significantly elevate PON-1 activity in the body. Specifically, Resveratrol, which is an extraction from red wine, exerts powerful control over the PON-1 gene, increasing PON-1 expression in human liver cells and protecting against atherosclerosis in animal models.

Pomegranate increase PON-1 levels through a number of distinct biomolecular pathways that include combating inflammation and LDL adhesion and favorable modulating gene expression.

Interestingly, it has been shown that both Resveratrol and Pomegranate decreases insulin resistance, increases mitochondrial content (mitochondria provides energy for cells) and prolongs the life of mice fed a high-fat diet.

Recent research suggests that PON-1 may serve as a formidable defense against numerous diseases of aging including heart disease, metabolic syndrome, arthritis and certain cancers. Additionally, PON-1 levels decrease with aging. Both Resveratrol and Pomegranate have been shown to upregulating the gene that governs PON-1 production thus increasing its’ output in liver cells.


This article was published on Friday February 12, 2010.
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