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The Sugar Which Removes Cholesterol From Arteries

A particular sugar might be the answer to cleansing your arteries from bad cholesterol! This finding is documented in a paper published in Science Translational Medicine.

Sugar cyclodextrin prevented the accumulation of cholesterol crystals (white) in the arteries of mice. This also led to a lesser degree of inflammation that is otherwise caused by an accumulation of macrophages (red). Photo credits: S. ZIMMER ET AL/SCIENCE TRANSLATIONAL MEDICINE 2016

This ‘miracle sugar’ is called cyclodextrin. It has been demonstrated, in a study conducted by immunologist Eicke Latz and colleagues, to clear cholesterol that has accumulated in the arteries of mice. Cyclodextrin is commonly known as the active ingredient in air fresheners. It is also a component of several types of drugs. If the new finding is confirmed, the sugar might be used to remove cholesterol from blood vessels in the future.

Cyclodextrin was used on mice feeding on fat-rich diets. It is said to enhance the natural removal of cholesterol, and to trigger immune cells to protect from inflammation.

It influences a gene known as LXR that is behind the synthesis of a protein which, in turn, activates other genes related to the processing of cholesterol and its removal. The sugar also switched on inflammation-calming processes. Latz and her team have, therefore, suggested that the sugar might be used to treat atherosclerosis which is a condition characterised by the accumulation of fats in blood arteries, thereby obstructing blood flow, which results in an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.

As for the positive effect on immunity, cyclodextrin appears to undo the damage cholesterol does through causing macrophages to induce inflammation. When functioning normally without interference, macrophages will protect the body against infections, and get rid of cholesterol by transporting it to the liver from where it is removed.

The findings are said to be promising. However, while the sugar is generally considered to be safe for use and the mice involved in the new study have not shown side effects, it has also been associated with high risk of liver damage and loss of hearing, points out biologist Elena Aikawa from Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Therefore, cyclodextrin’s potential as a cholesterol-remover should be explored further while taking necessary precautions, says Aikawa.

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