Serum Lipids – Cholesterol Lowering

Researchers at the Institute of Biochemistry and Food Chemistry, Graz University of Technology in Austria evaluated the potential effects of elderberry extract on fasting and postprandial risk profiles. Dr. Murkovic found that anthocyanins from elderberry (Sambucus nigra) showed a positive total cholesterol lowering effect in a 2-week human study. They also found that higher, but nutritionally relevant doses were able to significantly reduce postprandial serum lipids.

Murkovic, M., Abuja, P., Bergmann, Winklhofer-Roob, B.M., Pfannhauser, W., and Toplak, H. 2000. A randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study of elderberry (Sambucus nigra) spray-dried juice on fasting and post-prandial serum lipid values and low-density lipoprotein oxidation in healthy volunteers. Manuscript.

Obesity can contribute to metabolic disturbances like hyperlipidemia and hyperglycemia. Researchers in the UK discovered that anthocyanin-rich black currant extract can prevent high-fat/high-cholesterol diet-induced metabolic abnormalities by exerting hypocholesterolaemic and hypoglycaemic effects. This dose effectively lowered plasma total cholesterol and glucose levels in the treatment group significantly more than in the control group but blood triglyceride levels were not significantly different. It also reduced the percentage of mice with diet-induced severe steatosis (fatty liver). The researchers found that the expression of a proprotein called PCSK9 was significantly decreased in the livers of mice fed the black currant extract. This enzyme played a role in the degradation of the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) receptor. Popular cholesterol-lowering statin drugs work by indirectly increasing LDL receptor expression. Another important finding was the resulting impact the black currant had on enhancing energy use in the skeletal muscle, which could explain the reduction of fasting glucose and liver steatosis.

Benna1, T., Kima1, B., Parka1, Y., Yanga1, Y., Phama1, T., Siah Kua1, C., Farruggiaa1, C., Harnessa1, E., Smytha, J., and Lee, J. 2015. Polyphenol-rich blackcurrant extract exerts hypocholesterolaemic and hypoglycaemic effects in mice fed a diet containing high fat and cholesterol. British Journal of Nutrition. E-pub ahead of print.

See Appendix I for additional research supporting the weight loss/anti-obesity implications of high anthocyanin berry extracts.

Physical Stress Reduction and its Implications for Athletic Performance

Professor Sepp Porta at the Institute of Applied Stress Research in Bad Radkersburg, Austria, in conjunction with the United States Air Force, found that oral consumption of standardized elderberry extract leads to decreases in stress-related physiological parameters. Dr. Porta suggested that daily consumption of this elderberry extract could help limit the physiological effects of stress. It was found to 1) reduce blood glucose levels induced by stress, 2) increase metabolism (shown by an increase in metabolic rate), which may help to reduce catecholamine levels, and 3) increase cellular oxygen consumption (shown by a lowering of pO2 in spite of faster breathing and high pH and a drastic decrease in ionized magnesium). Along with its high antioxidant properties, this data supports the use of standardized elderberry extract in products designed to mediate stress.

Letiner, G., Westmoreland, M., Knapp, M., Spencer, K., Merback, J., Kuzik, V., Weger, M., Pfannhauser, W., and Porta, S. 2000. Stress induced electrolyte and blood gas changes with and without a six day oral treatment with elderberry (Sambucus nigra L.) concentrate. Magnesium-Bulletin 22(3): 72-76.

In another study, Professor Sepp Porta tested semi-professional runners from the Austrian Army Sport Group and found that oral consumption of a standardized elderberry extract prior to exercise lead to 1) a significantly smaller increase in lactate accumulation during exercise, 2) no significant decrease in pCO2 (which in turn did not increase pO2 and O2 saturation), and 3) a significant decrease in the ionized magnesium. These results point towards an increase of oxidative phosphorylation during exercise caused by standardized elderberry extract supplementation. The onset of anaerobic, less efficient glycolysis, also seemed to be significantly postponed. Therefore, metabolic reserves of the individual runners seem to be strengthened considerably by a single acute pre-exercise standardized elderberry extract application.

Porta, S. 2001. Pilot studies with standardized Rubini® liquid and exercise. Unpublished data.

In addition to the two studies described above, Professor Porta has performed two additional pilot studies utilizing standardized elderberry extract. Overall, the first three studies clearly showed that human consumption of standardized elderberry extract prior to exercise leads to decreased production of lactic acid. Therefore, standardized elderberry extract may be beneficial in sport food or sport supplement applications. Also in these studies, the magnesium concentration in the elderberry-treated groups was lowered. This may be explained by the fact that in blood samples only free or ionized magnesium is measured, not bound forms. Proteins are known to absorb or bind ionized magnesium as they are produced and are able to release it when needed. This fact is the connecting piece to the fourth study in the series, which was performed on animals, in collaboration with the Institut Sechonov in St. Petersburg, Russia. The latter showed a significant increase of liver activities when standardized elderberry extract was consumed, which is associated with higher protein production.

When results from all of the trials are reviewed together, Dr. Porta proposes four things regarding the standardized elderberry extract: 1) consumption prior to exercise prolongs oxidative phosphorylation, 2) at least one of the modes of action is based on its ability to activate the liver, 3) it contributes to a delay and reduction in lactic acid build-up, and 4) it modulates significant changes in blood chemistry due to the presence of stress factors.

Porta, S. 2001. Pilot studies with standardized Rubini® liquid and exercise. Unpublished data.

Oral Health

In a preliminary human study, a team of researchers investigated the effects of an elderberry-based mouthwash solution. Subjects were divided into groups based on their initial oral health status based on the level of plaque-induced inflammation. They used the elderberry mouthwash for 10 days and brushed all of their teeth except one section daily. After the treatment, both groups experienced reduced levels of plaque in the brushed areas. While the non-brushed areas contained an increased amount of plaque, there was no inflammation of the surrounding gum tissue. Further studies are needed to determine the long-term effects of an elderberry mouthwash application.

Bechir, A., Toma, J., Bratu, M., Roncea, F. 2003. Preliminary study concerning the clinical effects of a polyphenol mouth rinse solution. Ovidius University Anals-Medical Science. Volume 2.