Atherosclerosis is a disease where plaque fills up the arteries. Arteries are blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood to the heart and other parts of the body.

Plaque consists of fat, cholesterol, calcium and other substances found in the blood. With time, this plaque hardens and narrows the arteries preventing the flow of oxygen-rich blood to all organs of the body.

Atherosclerosis is promoted by high levels of low-density cholesterol, also known as bad cholesterol.

Although atherosclerosis is a common health problem it can be medically treated. The treatment involves focusing on decreasing the underlying symptoms associated with the cause of the disease.

Quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly can improve symptoms. Various medicines are also prescribed to patients suffering from atherosclerosis in order to treat the symptoms associated with it.

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What is Argan Oil?

Argan oil has found to be an effective alternative in the treatment of atherosclerosis. It is rich in components like unsaturated fatty acids, tocopherols, phenolic compounds, sterols and carotenoids.

It shows anti-atherogenic properties by increasing levels of good cholesterol and reducing levels of bad cholesterol.

Argan oil is a plant oil derived from the argan tree and is native to Morocco. The deep roots of the argan tree stabilize the ecosystem.

The tree plays an important role in maintaining the ecological balance.

It is popularly known as the tree of life among the people of Morocco. Argan oil is commonly used as food ingredient and for cosmetic purposes.

Argan oil has an interesting composition which can be utilized for our benefits in the treatment of various diseases including atherosclerosis.

Benefits of Argan Oil in Atherosclerosis

Regular consumption of argan oil can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases like atherosclerosis, obesity, diabetes, hypertension and other related disorders. Atherosclerosis may be controlled and prevented by consumption of argan oil on a regular basis. Here is how argan oil helps in Atherosclerosis.

Benefits of Argan Oil for Atherosclerosis

1. It prevents atherosclerosis

Argan oil is rich in unsaturated fatty acids, tocopherol and phenolic compounds.

The intake of argan oil has been recommended for preventing cardiovascular risks like atherosclerosis.

Argan oil increases uptake of good cholesterol and lowers bad cholesterol levels.

Epidemiological studies have reported that High-density cholesterol also known as good cholesterol have beneficial effects in preventing cardiovascular risks. High-density cholesterol is known to have anti-atherogenic properties.

Paraoxonases are a group of enzymes that show decreased activity in patients who are at a risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.

Thus, these enzymes can play an important role in the diagnosis of heart-related diseases.

A research study was conducted on humans to determine the anti-oxidant properties and amount of mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids in preventing cardiovascular risks.

These properties of argan oil resulted in an increase in the plasma paraoxonase activity thus preventing cardiovascular risks.

What does this mean? Argan oil reduces cardiovascular risks by preventing peroxidation of lipids and promoting levels of good cholesterol in the blood. It is found to prevent atherogenesis which in itself is a major risk factor for other cardiovascular diseases. Argan oil shows an increase in paraoxonase enzymes that indicate improvement in cardiovascular risks.

2. It lowers cholesterol

Argan oil is rich polyunsaturated fatty acids that have the ability to lower cholesterol levels.

High blood cholesterol levels contribute to a major factor associated with risks to heart diseases.

Argan oil has shown properties for lowering levels of bad cholesterol and increasing levels of good cholesterol.

A study published in the Journal of atherosclerosis reports that due to the presence of Vitamin E in argan oil, argan oil exhibits anti-oxidant properties.

The anti-oxidant property of argan oil prevents lipid peroxidation and enhances reverse cholesterol transport, increasing the uptake of good cholesterol and lowering levels of bad cholesterol.

These properties increase the anti-atherogenic potential of high-density cholesterol i.e. good cholesterol.

The protective effect of argan oil in lowering bad cholesterol levels reduces cardiovascular risks. Triglycerides may also be capable of lowering cholesterol levels.

What does this mean? Argan oil is capable of reducing cholesterol levels that are harmful to the heart. However, it promotes levels of good cholesterol in the blood. This is mainly due to the anti-oxidant properties exhibited by tocopherols present in argan oil. Since high cholesterol levels are a major risk factor in atherosclerosis, argan oil can play an important role in preventing atherosclerosis.

3. It reduces obesity

Obesity is a multifactorial chronic disease that is characterized by the accumulation of fat which in turn leads to cardiovascular risks.

Various mechanisms like abnormalities in lipid metabolism, insulin resistance and inflammation have been suggested to determine the relationship between obesity and atherosclerosis.

Excess weight may contribute to atherosclerosis.

Argan oil has been proved to be essential in reducing obesity.

Research studies performed on an animal model determines the effect of argan oil on high fat-induced metabolic effects of obesity.

The aim of the study was to compare the oxidant-antioxidant status and lipid profile of high-fat diet and a normal diet.

The study reported that argan oil reduces levels of total cholesterol, bad cholesterol, triacylglycerols, glucose, and insulin.

It was thus concluded that argan oil reduces the metabolic effects of obesity and its intake can be promoted along with following a healthy and balanced diet.

Anti-diabetic and associated cardiovascular effects of argan oil have been studied for the past five years with fruitful results. Studies show that argan oil reduces the Body Mass Index thus promoting weight loss.

What does this mean? Argan oil has proved to be essential in promoting weight loss and preventing obesity. It has the ability to lower cholesterol levels, reduce the body mass index and prevent insulin resistance. Since obesity is closely associated with atherosclerosis reduction in obesity will also help curing conditions of atherosclerosis.

4. It reduces inflammation

Epidemiologic and secondary prevention studies suggest that the presence of polyunsaturated fatty acids in argan oil in the arterial wall contributes to its anti-inflammatory properties.

This property of argan oil can prevent cardiovascular risks.

Experimental studies conducted by Yaqqub et al. in 2004 suggested that dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids in the plaque of human subjects may influence the morphology and stability of atherosclerotic lesions.

Hypertension which is one of the risk factors of atherosclerosis can also be prevented by consumption of argan oil.

Argan oil is rich in linoleic acid and tocopherols that contribute to lowering cholesterol levels as compared to non-consumers of argan oil thus suggesting its role in the prevention of atherosclerosis.

What does this mean? The anti-inflammatory properties of argan oil are mainly due to the presence of polyunsaturated fatty acids in it. This property of an oil can help in curing atherosclerotic lesions in patients suffering from atherosclerosis. Argan oil also prevents hypertension and lowers blood pressure which is a major risk factor in the development of atherosclerosis.

5. It has anti-oxidant property

Intake of antioxidants reduces the risk of developing heart diseases. Anti-oxidant properties of argan oil are due to the presence of essential fatty acids and Vitamin E.

Argan oil contains small amounts of other fatty acids like linoleic acid that produce prostaglandins that play an important function in the immune system and circulatory systems.

Increased production of prostaglandins helps with problems of the cardiovascular system.

In an experiment performed by Belcadi et al. in 1994 it was reported that Argan oil increases anti-oxidant activity due to change in poly-unsaturated fatty acids of the cell membranes.

Another experiment demonstrated that the presence of Vitamin E in argan oil decreases cellular oxidative damage.

What does this mean? Argan oil possesses anti-oxidant properties as it is rich in Vitamin E and polyunsaturated fatty acids. These components increase the oxidative stability and prevent peroxidation of lipids. Argan oil also contains linoleic acid which is involved in the production of prostaglandins. Increased levels of prostaglandins play a key role in the immune system and circulatory systems, thus helping in cardiovascular problems.

Research Study – Argan Oil Consumption & Risk of Atherosclerosis

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.

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 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 the 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 the 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 the formation of some chemical compounds such as conjugated dienes’and‘lipoperoxides’ (oxidized form of lipid) decreases significantly.

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 and vitamin E found in argan oil seems to protect LDL from undergoing oxidation successfully.

Thus, the overall 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 the 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 the 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 a reduction of atherosclerosis.

Also, as discussed earlier in this article the 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

Dosage

Argan oil is used in Morocco for seasoning dishes, dressing for salads and adding flavour to desserts and vegetables.

Mean daily intake of argan oil was found to be 15g for hyperlipidemia. 1-2 teaspoons of argan oil per day can be included in the diet.

Precautions

Presently there are no reports regarding the toxicity to argan oil. However, a case of anaphylaxis has been reported recently.

It is thus important that before incorporating argan oil in the diet or for cosmetic purposes one must do a patch test on a small area of the skin or consult a physician to check for his/her susceptibility to develop an allergic reaction against the argan oil allergen.

The daily dosage of argan oil can be consulted by a doctor as it may vary from person to person. It has been found that allergen present in argan oil can be suppressed by a process of refining.

Conclusion

Argan oil has been used as food, as a food ingredient and cosmetic ingredient for centuries.

It has been used as a natural remedy because of its beneficial effects on health.

It is an excellent food supplement with no known toxic effects.

It has significant quantities of all essential nutrients that make up a healthy diet. Regular consumption of argan oil can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases like atherosclerosis, obesity, diabetes, hypertension and other related disorders.

Atherosclerosis may be controlled and prevented by consumption of argan oil on a regular basis.

It is because of the high content of anti-oxidants, mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids that argan oil has been proved to be beneficial in preventing cardiovascular diseases.

Now various studies completed on animal and human models are available to provide evidence about the consumption of argan oil in protecting risks associated with atherosclerosis.

The extraction of argan oil is a laborious process however it can be stored for up to 3-6 months as it contains high levels of Vitamin E which is considered oxidatively stable.

The argan tree plays an important role in maintaining ecological balance and biodiversity. The success of argan oil is a good sign in the preservation of the argan trees and forests, thus maintaining the biodiversity.

Argan oil due to its unique properties has found its place in the highly competitive international oil market.

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