Margarine and spice at heart of cardiovascular risk trial

Jun 10 2016

Professor Manohar Garg

Margarine and an Indian spice are being enlisted by HMRI nutrition researchers at the University of Newcastle (UON) in a two-pronged approach to lowering cardiovascular disease risk.

Professor Manohar Garg, Director of the Nutraceuticals Research Program, is currently recruiting for a clinical trial testing the efficacy of plant sterols (found in vegetable fat spreads) in combination with curcumin, which is isolated from the age-old spice turmeric.

He says current therapies and interventions only target one facet of heart disease risk.

“We know that blood lipids [fats] such as cholesterol and triglycerides are strong risk factors for cardiovascular disease but that’s only one side of the story. The other is chronic inflammation,” Professor Garg explains.

“The idea behind this trial is to tackle both risk factors simultaneously. Plant sterols will lower blood cholesterol but not substantially affect inflammation; curcumin on the other hand, is a known anti-inflammatory agent.”

Professor Garg says that inflammation results from an immune response, which generates chemicals that promote the build-up of fat in blood vessels. Over time this precipitates cardiovascular disease.

Curcumin will be delivered in capsule form for the trial, while participants will be advised to consume Logicol margarine for the plant sterol component.

“Plant sterols are similar to cholesterol in structure so they compete for absorption when we consume them. In our previous studies we’ve shown that you can cut down cholesterol levels by 10 per cent in only three weeks.”

Professor Garg’s team needs a further 40 people to complete the trial, some of whom will receive both active ingredients – others will get one or the other, and the fourth group gets double placebo. Results will be determined using blood parameters, an internationally accepted algorithm (Framingham) plus Australian charts to calculate one’s risk for developing heart disease in the next 10 years.

The trial is recruiting men and women aged 18-70 with a blood cholesterol level above 5.5mmol/L. To inquire about eligibility please email jessica.ferguson@uon.edu.au or phone 4921 5636.