An extract from algae called ProAlgaZyme could become a key to regulating cardiovascular disease, say researchers at Michigan's Wayne State University. Smiti Gupta, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of nutrition and food science in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, found that dietary intake of the extract increased the level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or "good cholesterol" in an animal model.
Most medications, such as statins, and dietary supplements concentrate on lowering the levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) or "bad cholesterol." Gupta's research, however, concentrates on raising the levels of HDL, which work in part by carrying cholesterol out of the arterial wall.
"The cholesterol mechanism is crucial to heart disease," Gupta said. "Very few agents increase good cholesterol, but we found that this algae extract does. The ratio of total to HDL cholesterol improved significantly. This result, if replicated in humans, would be consistent with a decreased risk of heart disease."
ProAlgaZyme, a clear liquid, was administered as part of the drinking fluid over four weeks. In addition to increasing HDL levels, the group found that it also changed the expression of genes involved in the reverse cholesterol transport mechanism. And while they don't know exactly how it will function in humans, Gupta said other research suggests a similar outcome.
"Its biological effect over time and toxic effects, if any, need to be further investigated in a long-term study in an animal model before testing its effects in humans," she said. "But this is a step in the right direction, since increased HDL is considered an important therapeutic target for improvement of the lipid profile and thus reduction of the risk for cardiovascular disease."