Atherosclerosis, a disease that accounts for several deaths a year, can be defined as a condition that is caused due to narrowing of arteries (blood vessels carrying oxygen-rich blood) by the formation of structures commonly called as plaques.
Plaques are depositions of fat, calcium, cholesterol and other substances found in blood. With time, these plaques harden and obstruct the blood flow to different parts of the body.
Development of plaques also increases the risk of blood clot formation. This in turn, interferes with the entire blood circulation mechanism of the body.
Depending on which artery is blocked, there might be various ailments that can occur including coronary heart disease which may lead to heart attack or angina (chest discomfort or pain).
Complete cut off of blood flow will cause that part of the heart to undergo slow yet severe damage.
This article discusses the possibility of argan oil consumption decreasing the chances of having atherosclerosis in healthy individuals.Virgin Argan oil contains antioxidants and mono as well as polyunsaturated fatty acids which are believed to help in the prevention of atherosclerosis.
Argan oil also contains phenolics and phytosterols that possess hypocholesterolemic activity (direct or indirect).
The argan tree (Arganiaspinosa (L.) Skeels; Sapotaceae) is found in southwest Morocco which has been declared a biosphere reserve by the UNESCO. The localities of Morocco have expertise in argan oil extraction from the tree.
Its various pharmacological properties are beneficial, and this has shot argan oil into the limelight. The oil is now exported from Morocco to different nooks and corners of the world.
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What happened in the study?
The research mentioned in this article is an interventional study. In any interventional study, the participants undergo some interference to evaluate the impact of the administered pharmaceutical compound.
The intervention in this study was in the form of lipid-controlled diet.
The research was conducted to find out whether consumption of Argan Oil could help in reducing the risk of Atherosclerosis in healthy individuals or not. For this, sixty healthy young men were included in the test.
All of them were asked to consume a controlled diet in the form of 25 g butter/day for two weeks. This activity would help in the establishment of baseline conditions.
Subsequently, all the sixty participants were randomly divided into two groups. The two groups were observed for 3 weeks.
One group was administered 25g butter/day while the other group was not. Virgin Argan Oil replaced butter for this group. So, the Virgin Argan oil group received 25 ml/day of oil, and the extra virgin olive oil group received the 25ml/day of Extra Virgin Oil. The later served as the control group.
Different factors were examined such as plasma PON1 activities, antioxidant vitamins and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) susceptibility to oxidation.
It has been scientifically proven that some factors play an active role in the regulation of atherosclerosis. These elements are oxidative stress and LDL oxidation of (LDL).
This study aimed at verifying whether the consumption of Virgin Argan Oil could help in improvement of plasma paraoxonase (PON1) activities and antioxidant status in healthy subjects (men).PON1 (paraoxonase 1) is an important anti-atherosclerotic component found in high-density lipoprotein (HDL).
The function of HDL particles is to remove fat molecules including cholesterol, phospholipids, and triglycerides.
Thus we can say that increasing HDL particle concentrations can prevent plaque formation within arteries.
What were the results of the study?
Post three weeks period, all the participants went through thorough medical checkup, and various factors such as body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, total serum cholesterol, HDL, LDL, apolipoproteins, and triglyceride levels were inspected.
The idea behind this was that high values of all these factors would indicate a higher risk of atherosclerosis.
These values were compared with baseline values. It was observed that BMI, blood pressure and total cholesterol levels did not change during the three-week study period, significantly.
The results of the study, however, revealed that PON1 activities increase significantly in both groups. It was observed that formation of some chemical compounds such as conjugated dienes’and‘lipoperoxides’ (oxidized form of lipid) decreases significantlyin
Virgin argan oil and Extra Virgin Oil groupswhen compared to baseline values.In the argan oil group, HDL cholesterol increased, and triglyceride levels decreased significantly.
Analysis of results showed that Vitamin E concentration increased significantly only in Virgin argan oil group and not Extra Virgin Oil group.
There is a significant increase in susceptibility of LDL to lipid peroxidation in Virgin argan oil and Extra Virgin Oil groups. Oxidized LDLs can cause damage to cells and form atherosclerotic human plaque.
This suggests that low-density lipoprotein (LDL) oxidation seems to play a key role in atherosclerosis.
Following the oxidation hypothesis of atherosclerosis, the natural oxidants including sterols, tocopherols, polyphenols andVitamin E found in argan oil seems to protect LDL from undergoing oxidation successfully.
Thus, the overall the study highlighted the anti-atherosclerotic effect of argan oil on healthy males undergoing dietary restrictions.
How does this occur?
The beneficial role played by argan oil in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases like atherosclerosis, can be attributed to the unique biochemical composition that it possesses.
As explained earlier in the article, it not only comprises antioxidants like Vitamin E but also has unsaturated fatty acids. Consumption of argan oil precisely implies that you are replacing saturated fatty acids present in other oils with unsaturated fatty acids.
Saturated fatty acids have single bonds in their structure which are difficult to break down and needs a high amount of energy while the latter has multiple bonds and can be easily broken down. Thus, it is easier to metabolize the unsaturated fatty acids.
On the other hand, strong antioxidants like tocopherols, sterols, polyphenols, Vitamin E prevent oxidation of LDL. Oxidized forms of LDL promote atherosclerosis. Another property of the antioxidants is that it helps reduce hypertension and hence influences blood pressure.
There are different hypothesis behind the mechanism of action in this regard. One possibility is that concentration of PUFA linoleic acid, another component of argan oil, affects blood pressure.
Studies in animal models have proven that higher concentration of linoleic acid reduces blood pressure. Another possibility is that presence of alpha-tocopherol present in argan oil has anti-hypertensive property.
Apart from these factors, PON1 (paraoxonase 1) is another anti-atherosclerotic component found in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) which removes fat molecules including cholesterol, phospholipids, and triglycerides. This, in turn, hinders plaque formation.
What does this mean?
This study is the first research that successfully brought out concrete evidence showcasing that: Argan oil has an anti-atherogenic role to play.
The various constituents of argan oil like Vitamin E and PON1 has an anti-oxidant property which protects LDL from oxidation. Prevention of LDL oxidation ensures reduction of atherosclerosis.
Also, as discussed earlier in this article presence of phenolics and Phytosterols reduce cholesterol which indirectly works as a triggering factor for causing atherosclerosis.
Thus consumption of argan oil by replacing other fatty substances in diet can pose protection from this disease.
So this interventional study involving consumption of argan oil and its possible to have an antiatherogenic effect by improving paraoxonase activities and antioxidant status is a breakthrough.
Read the full study at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16216721