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Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011;2011:801272. doi: 10.1093/ecam/nep007. Epub 2010 Oct 19.

Triterpenic Acids Present in Hawthorn Lower Plasma Cholesterol by Inhibiting Intestinal ACAT Activity in Hamsters.

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Unilever Food and Health Research Institute, Unilever R&D Vlaardingen, P.O. Box 114, 3130 AC Vlaardingen, The Netherlands.


Hawthorn (Crataegus pinnatifida) is an edible fruit used in traditional Chinese medicine to lower plasma lipids. This study explored lipid-lowering compounds and underlying mechanisms of action of hawthorn. Hawthorn powder extracts inhibited acylCoA:cholesterol acyltransferase (ACAT) activity in Caco-2 cells. The inhibitory activity was positively associated with triterpenic acid (i.e., oleanolic acid (OA) and ursolic acid (UA)) contents in the extracts. Cholesterol lowering effects of hawthorn and its potential additive effect in combination with plant sterol esters (PSE) were further studied in hamsters. Animals were fed a semi-synthetic diet containing 0.08% (w/w) cholesterol (control) or the same diet supplemented with (i) 0.37% hawthorn dichloromethane extract, (ii) 0.24% PSE, (iii) hawthorn dichloromethane extract (0.37%) plus PSE (0.24%) or (iv) OA/UA mixture (0.01%) for 4 weeks. Compared to the control diet, hawthorn, PSE, hawthorn plus PSE and OA/UA significantly lowered plasma non-HDL (VLDL + LDL) cholesterol concentrations by 8%, 9%, 21% and 6% and decreased hepatic cholesterol ester content by 9%, 23%, 46% and 22%, respectively. The cholesterol lowering effects of these ingredients were conversely associated with their capacities in increasing fecal neutral sterol excretion. In conclusion, OA and UA are responsible for the cholesterol lowering effect of hawthorn by inhibiting intestinal ACAT activity. In addition, hawthorn and particularly its bioactive compounds (OA and UA) enhanced the cholesterol lowering effect of plant sterols.

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