Moringa's Effect On Reducing Cholesterol

  • Ann Rose JosephPharmD , Acharya and BM Reddy college of Pharmacy, Bangalore, Karnataka, India.

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Introduction

To generate hormones, vitamin D, and compounds that aid in food digestion, your body requires cholesterol. It is a waxy, fat-like material, which is produced and present in the cells of your body and is an essential component for your cell’s health. Foods that contain cholesterol include those derived from animals, such as cheese, meat, and egg yolks.  Too much cholesterol, however, may lead to Plaques, that can form in the blood when excess cholesterol combines with other chemicals in the blood. Plaques adhere to the artery walls and hinder your blood to flow smoothly through the vessels. The accumulation of plaques is referred to as atherosclerosis and your coronary arteries may thin or even get blocked as a result of coronary artery disease.2 Because of the impact the tree moringa  has on these levels, there is a possibility that it can lower the risk of heart disease. According to a study, moringa increased HDL levels while lowering LDL levels. The rabbits used in this investigation had elevated LDL levels. The rabbits whose cholesterol levels were already within normal range did not exhibit this impact.3

Understanding Cholesterol 

The "lipoproteins" that carry cholesterol through the blood are proteins. The body uses two different kinds of lipoproteins to transport cholesterol:

  • LDL (low-density lipoprotein): The majority of the cholesterol in your body is made up of LDL cholesterol, frequently referred to as the "bad" cholesterol. Your risk of heart disease and stroke increases if your LDL cholesterol levels are high.
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, also referred to as "good" cholesterol, returns blood cholesterol to the liver by absorbing it. It is then eliminated from the body by the liver. Your risk of heart disease and stroke can be reduced by having high levels of HDL cholesterol.4

There are numerous vital roles that cholesterol plays in your body. Among them are:

  • Helping the layers of defence that form on your cell membranes. These layers regulate what can go into and come out of your cell.
  • Helping your liver produce bile, which is necessary for meal digestion.
  • Assisting your body's synthesis of vitamin D and certain hormones, such as sex hormones.5

A high blood level of bad cholesterol raises the risk of heart disease, stroke, and other complications. Lipid disease, hyperlipidemia, or hypercholesterolemia are common medical terminology for high blood cholesterol; the latter term is the most accurate.6

Moringa: Overview and Nutritional Composition

Native to the Indian subcontinent, Moringa oleifera is a fast-growing, drought-resistant tree that is widely utilized in South and Southeast Asia and belongs to the members of the Moringaceae family. Common names for this plant include horseradish tree (named for the taste of the roots, which is similar to horseradish), moringa, drumstick tree (named for the tall, slender, triangular seed -pods), and malunggay (known in Asian maritime or archipelagic regions).1 Often seeming as a leguminous plant from a distance, especially while in flower, Moringa oleifera is a petite, graceful, deciduous tree with sparse foliage that is easily identified when in fruit. The tree reaches heights of 8 m and a diameter of 60 cm. Its bole is uneven and usually split close to the base.7

Moringa was found to have 28.50% carbs, 25.02% proteins, 10.42% fat, 11.83% dietary fibre, 1.108 mg β-carotene, 326.4 µg/100 g of vitamin B1, and 15.2 mg/100 g of vitamin C, according to nutritional analysis results.8 M. oleifera is a veritable treasure trove of vital minerals and antioxidants: Minerals including calcium, potassium, zinc, magnesium, iron, and copper are abundant in M. oleifera leaves. M. oleifera also contains vitamins such as beta-carotene, vitamin A, and vitamins B, C, D, and E, pyridoxine, nicotinic acid, and folic acid. Anti-cancerous agents such glucosinolates, isothiocyanates, glycoside compounds, and glycerol-1-9-octadecanoate are found along with phytochemicals like tannins, sterols, terpenoids, flavonoids, saponins, anthraquinones, and alkaloids as well.8According to the findings gathered from a study, extracts from both mature and tender Moringa oleifera leaves exhibit strong antioxidant activity against free radicals, shield important biomolecules from oxidative damage, and provide a substantial level of protection against oxidative damage.9

Scientific Study on Moringa's Impact on Cholesterol

A study conducted by Komal investigating the effect of Moringa oleifera vs lovastatin, a commonly used lipid-lowering medication,  revealed that both agents increased the HDL ratio (HDL/HDL-total cholesterol) in comparison to the respective control groups. At the same time, it was found that the serum cholesterol, phospholipid, triglyceride, VLDL, LDL, cholesterol to phospholipid ratio, and the atherogenic index were decreased. In normal rabbits, treatment with M. oleifera or lovastatin resulted in a reduction of HDL levels. Nonetheless, the hypercholesterolaemic rabbits treated with lovastatin or M. oleifera showed a substantial drop in HDL levels, respectively. When hypercholesterolemic rabbits were treated with lovastatin or M. oleifera, their lipid profiles in the liver, heart, and aorta decreased, while normal animals did not have a discernible decrease in heart size. It was shown that M. oleifera increased the excretion of cholesterol in the faeces. As a result, the study shows that M. oleifera has a hypolipidemic impact.10

Mechanism of Action

Moringa may help regulate cholesterol levels by inhibiting the absorption of cholesterol in the intestines and promoting its excretion. Compounds like beta-sitosterol found in Moringa have been shown to reduce cholesterol absorption in the gut.10

Considerations and Limitations

Possible adverse effects of moringa include:

  • Lower blood pressure and a slower heart rate,  because of the plant's alkaloids
  • Contractions in the uterus caused by moringa bark
  • Alterations in cells induced by a substance found in roasted moringa seeds
  • Interference with the process of conception
  • Diarrhoea, gas, or upset stomach as a result of the laxative qualities

Rodents exposed to moringa leaves also had higher risks of liver and kidney damage. If you are pregnant, taking the diabetic medication Januvia (sitagliptin), or taking any medications that are substrates of the cytochrome P450 family of enzymes, avoid consuming moringa.11

Practical Implications and Recommendations

Fresh, dried, or powdered, moringa leaves are a multipurpose addition to teas, smoothies, and supplements, providing a healthy and natural means of promoting general health.

  • Moringa Powder: Using a coffee grinder, finely powder dried Moringa leaves and add them to soups, yoghurt, cereal, and smoothies. This is a simple and adaptable method of including moringa in your diet. 
  • Tea made from dried Moringa leaves steeped in hot water is a delicious beverage. For taste, you can add lemon or honey.
  • Salads: To improve the nutrients in your salads, add fresh Moringa leaves. Their subtle peppery taste goes well with a lot of salad items.
  • Moringa Soup: Adding chopped fresh or dried Moringa leaves to your soups will increase their nutritional content. They go well with a variety of soup recipes. 
  • Smoothies made with fresh or powdered moringa leaves: Incorporate them into your preferred smoothie recipes. Add them to a liquid basis, such as coconut water or almond milk, along with some fruits and veggies.
  • Moringa Supplements or Capsules: After speaking with a medical expert, if you find it difficult to incorporate moringa leaves into your meals, you may want to take supplements in the form of capsules or powder.12

Summary

Research suggests that Moringa may have a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels. Studies have shown that Moringa supplementation can lead to reductions in both total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, commonly referred to as "bad" cholesterol. Additionally, Moringa's antioxidant properties may contribute to its cholesterol-lowering effects by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, which are known risk factors for cardiovascular disease. However, further large-scale clinical trials are warranted to confirm these findings and elucidate the precise mechanisms by which Moringa exerts its effects on cholesterol metabolism. Nonetheless, incorporating Moringa into a balanced diet may offer potential benefits for individuals seeking to manage their cholesterol levels and improve overall cardiovascular health.

References

  1. Wikipedia contributors. Moringa oleifera [Internet]. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 2024. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Moringa_oleifera&oldid=1195532984 
  2. Cholesterol. Blood, Heart and Circulation [Internet]. 1998 [cited 2024 Feb 4]; Available from: https://medlineplus.gov/cholesterol.html 
  3. Hawkins W. Health benefits of moringa [Internet]. Pushdoctor.co.uk. [cited 2024 Feb 4]. Available from: https://www.pushdoctor.co.uk/nutrition-advice/health-benefits-of-moringa 
  4. CDC. LDL and HDL cholesterol and triglycerides [Internet]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2023 [cited 2024 Feb 5]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/ldl_hdl.htm
  5. What is cholesterol? [Internet]. Cleveland Clinic. [cited 2024 Feb 5]. Available from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/23922-what-is-cholesterol
  6. Pennmedicine.org. [cited 2024 Feb 5]. Available from: https://www.pennmedicine.org/for-patients-and-visitors/patient-information/conditions-treated-a-to-z/high-cholesterol
  7. Worldagroforestry.org. [cited 2024 Feb 5]. Available from: https://apps.worldagroforestry.org/treedb/AFTPDFS/Moringa_oleifera.PDF
  8. Gopalakrishnan L, Doriya K, Kumar DS. Moringa oleifera: A review on nutritive importance and its medicinal application. Food Sci Hum Wellness [Internet]. 2016;5(2):49–56. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2213453016300362
  9. Sreelatha S, Padma PR. Antioxidant activity and total phenolic content of Moringa oleifera leaves in two stages of maturity. Plant Foods Hum Nutr [Internet]. 2009 [cited 2024 Feb 9];64(4):303–11. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19904611/
  10. Mehta K, Balaraman R, Amin AH, Bafna PA, Gulati OD. Effect of fruits of Moringa oleifera on the lipid profile of normal and hypercholesterolaemic rabbits. J Ethnopharmacol [Internet]. 2003;86(2–3):191–5. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/s0378-8741(03)00075-8
  11. Whitmer M. Moringa tree and cancer: Side effects and research studies [Internet]. Mesothelioma Center - Vital Services for Cancer Patients & Families. 2019 [cited 2024 Feb 9]. Available from: https://www.asbestos.com/blog/2019/11/26/moringa-tree-cancer-research/
  12. Kalyan MAR. 10 ways to include Moringa leaves in your diet [Internet]. Continentalhospitals.com. [cited 2024 Feb 9]. Available from: https://continentalhospitals.com/blog/10-ways-to-include-moringa-leaves-in-your-diet/

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Ann Rose Joseph

Doctor of Pharmacy - PharmD , Acharya and BM Reddy college of Pharmacy, Bangalore, Karnataka, India

Ann Rose is a PharmD intern , showcasing an unwavering passion for healthcare field. With comprehensive knowledge regarding the principles and operational techniques of pharmacy in Healthcare settings.Equipped with a strong background in medication evaluation and clinical management of multiple chronic disease states.

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