Chronic, low grade inflammation initiates damage to the arterial wall, allowing cholesterol to enter and infiltrate the vessel lining where a cascade effect occurs forming fatty deposits, known as the condition atherosclerosis. Current preventative strategies target this problem single-handedly via cholesterol-lowering methods such as changes in diet, lifestyle and medicinal therapy, however, this approach fails to effectively reduce heart disease risk from a multi-faceted angle. My PhD project proposes to optimise the cholesterol-lowering potential of phytosterols in order to enhance their heart health benefits. As part of my research I have investigated the novel combination of PS with curcumin; a potent antiinflammatory agent, in order to not only optimise the lipid-lowering ability of PS, but to maximisecardio-protection in individuals at risk of developing heart disease. Both bioactives are derived from plants and neither pose adverse side effects to humans and the combination could serve as an alternative or adjunct therapy to current pharmacological practices.
Heart disease is highly prevalent worldwide and remains the leading cause of death. It is well established that high cholesterol is a major modifiable risk factor for heart disease because left unmanaged it contributes to blocking of arteries causing stroke, heart attacks and haemorrhages, however, this is only one side of the story. Chronic low-grade inflammation goes hand-in-hand with high cholesterol as a silent, but major contributor to the development of heart disease by means of fatty plaque formation in the arteries.