The most important thing for those who already have atherosclerosis is to prevent unstable plaques. Plaques become unstable when the fibrous cap between the ball of inflammation within the vessel wall and the blood flowing next to the plaque breaks down and releases toxic, inflammatory material into the blood vessel.
(For a detailed discussion on inflammation and its role in many diseases, see my newsletter "Inflammation: The Real Cause of Most Diseases."
Therefore, people who already have atherosclerosis must do all they can to strengthen the fibrous cap. This can be achieved by taking high doses of buffered vitamin C (at least 1,000 mg three times a day, between meals); lysine (1,000 mg a day); and grape seed extract (100 mg, twice a day).
In addition, several plant flavonoids — such as curcumin and quercetin — powerfully inhibit the enzymes responsible for dissolving the fibrous cap.
Quercetin is a flavonoid commonly found in fruits and vegetables, and in especially high
concentrations in onions and teas. Human epidemiology studies have shown that higher intakes of quercetin are associated with significantly fewer heart attacks and strokes. This benefit has been attributed to its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anticoagulant effects.
In one recent study, researchers found that feeding rabbits high-fat diets raised total cholesterol dramatically, along with LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol and VLDL (very low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. At the same time, the diet lowered beneficial HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol and liver detoxification enzymes.
Mixing quercetin with the high-fat diet significantly reduced the elevated total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, and restored liver detoxification enzymes to normal levels. More importantly, when researchers examined the aortas of the animals, they found that the extensive atherosclerotic plaques were dramatically reduced in those given the quercetin.
Other studies found a 46 percent reduction in plaque in the aortas of mice that were fed high-fat diets, if the diet contained quercetin. There was also a 48 percent reduction of LDL cholesterol oxidation.
Quercetin is usually available as a powder in a capsule. Some forms are mixed with bromelain, while others are quercetin chalcone, which improves absorption. I prefer the quercetin chalcone form, but also use pure quercetin, which I mix with extra virgin olive oil. The dose is 500 to 1,000 mg three times a day with meals.
Curcumin is a bright orange extract of the spice turmeric. It has shown powerful antitumor, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties, as well as mild anticoagulant and lipid-lowering effects in both animal and human studies.
In one very well-conducted study using New Zealand white rabbits, curcumin — even in low doses — reduced the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, removed a number of free radicals associated with atherosclerosis, and significantly reduced the number and size of atherosclerotic plaques.
A more recent study used animals genetically induced to develop rapid, severe atherosclerosis, and fed them a Western diet. Half of the animals were fed a high-fat diet alone, while the other half ate the high-fat diet along with curcumin in a very low dose.
Despite the very low dose, the animals eating curcumin had a significant reduction in
atherosclerosis and plaques compared to those on the high-fat diet alone. On this very low dose, there was no effect on cholesterol levels, while the animals showed significant reductions in atherosclerosis. This result indicates that atherosclerosis had nothing to do with high cholesterol levels.
Dissolving the curcumin in oils, such as extra virgin olive oil, dramatically increases absorption. I usually recommend a dose of 500 mg mixed in oil taken three times a day with meals.
A number of other supplements also help protect the vascular system and heart, including resveratrol, white tea, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), ginkgo biloba, grape seed extract, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, lycopene, ellagic acid (in pomegranates and raspberries), and baicalein.
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