Mulberry leaf extract inhibits atherosclerosis?

Mulberry trees are widely distributed, producing red, purple and even white berries depending on the variety. Many parts of the tree, including the leaves, bark, berries have been used in folk remedies for thousands of years. Mulberry has been widely claimed and studied as an aid to control diabetes.

Atherosclerosis is a component of heart disease. It is the process by which arteries become clogged with cholesterol laden plaques, restricting blood flow and ultimately resulting in serious issues, including heart attacks when blood vessels supplying the heart become restricted.

In a study published recently [J. Agric. Food Chem., 2013], researchers tested mulberry leaf extract (MLE) on rabbits and found that in addition to improvement of liver function, the atheroma burden (an atheroma is an accumulation and swelling in artery walls, a precursor to atherosclerosis) and levels of serum cholesterol, triglycerides, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) were also significantly reduced after MLE treatment. MLE treatment was also reported to reduced the size of existing atheromas in the vascular wall. In conclusion, this means that, in addition to improving cholesterol and triglyceride profiles, MLE appears to reduce existing atheromas, thereby preventing atherosclerosis.

The proposed mechanism of MLE’s role in reduction of arterial plaques is by causing an increase in the body’s production of a protein called p53 (p53 is classified as a tumor-suppressor protein that is released during cellular stress, such as that caused by DNA damage, low oxygen, etc). The p53-atherosclerosis connection is unclear. It was discovered separately that persons can be p53 deficient and that people with p53 deficiencies also had an increased size of atherosclerotic lesions.

In an earlier study [J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2010 September] “Effects of Mulberry Leaf Extract Rich in 1-Deoxynojirimycin on Blood Lipid Profiles in Humans”, subjects ingested capsules containing mulberry leaf extract, 12-mg three times daily, for 12 weeks. The results were very far from conclusive. After 12 weeks, findings showed a modest decrease in serum triglyceride levels and beneficial changes in the lipoprotein profile, although the study team admitted that the decreases were not statistically significant. Although the results were not statistically significant the researchers proposed that the MLE may potentially be used to decrease what is known as “very bad cholesterol”.

Conclusion: It all sounds well and good, particularly in the animal study..MLE actually reduces plaques?! Though in human subjects the real net effects are far from conclusive. At this point one might be thinking, well..why not go ahead and take MLE anyway? The results seem promising, right? Sure, if you like. The studies seem to indicate that there aren’t any serious side effects from moderate doses, but then again, if the evidence isn’t statistically significant, why bother? The better course of action would be to wait for a larger study with more human subjects, and in the meantime, if you have a risk for atherosclerosis, stick to what we are fairly certain works, including diet modification, exercise and if you aren’t adverse..statin drugs..

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