A plant sterol is a substance extracted from certain types of plants, which when ingested, reduces the absorption of cholesterol by the small intestine. Guggulsterone is one such plant sterol extracted from the resin of the Commiphora mukul tree, commonly called the Guggul tree. This flowering plant is generally found in several regions ranging from the Northern parts of Africa to Central Asia. However, it is mostly found in abundance in North India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Guggulsterone has traditionally been used as a herbal medicine in India under the ancient science of Ayurveda. It is now being used as an ingredient in several nutritional/herbal supplements. Guggulsterones as a supplement are promoted for improving the functioning of thyroid glands as well as reduction of unhealthy cholesterol levels.

Primarily, guggulsterones are recommended in weight loss therapy for people with impaired functioning of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is what controls the metabolism of the human body. In other words, it decides on how fast the body can utilize energy and make proteins. When the gland does not function as normal, the body may not be able to burn fat at a faster rate, thus causing it to be stored, in turn leading to weight gain.

The advocators of guggulsterones emphasize that the supplement helps trigger weight loss by stimulation of the thyroid gland, thereby increasing the metabolic rate. The reverse could also be true. People who are generally known to have faster rates of metabolism may not experience any benefits from the intake of Guggulsterones. In fact, it may potentially lead to muscle-loss instead of fat.

Apart from weight loss, guggulsterones are also thought to have some effect on cholesterol levels in the human body. This plant extract is believed to keep in check the level of Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), a ‘bad’ form of cholesterol. The retention of LDL in the arteries can cause strokes or heart attacks. Guggulsterones may also cause reduction in the triglyceride levels, which is another major cause for cardiovascular diseases.

It is also believed that guggulsterones keep up the levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the ‘good’ cholesterol. It has been suggested that the supplement triggers a hormone receptor called the Farnesoid X receptor (FXR), which converts cholesterol to bile. However, there has been considerable debate and speculation on the true effects of Guggulsterones on cholesterol levels. There have been certain studies proving guggulsterones to be ineffective in the lowering of cholesterol.

Guggulsterones have also been claimed to act as an anti-inflammatory agent. Hence, supplements containing guggulsterones have been put forth as a remedy for ailments such as tendonitis and arthritis. Some researchers believe that guggulsterone supplements are antibacterial in nature and may therefore help in the reduction of acne.

Guggulsterones are typically available in the form of powder which is filled in capsules. Two different methods are followed in the processing of the Guggul plant, each of which produces a high and low potency version of the supplement. It is possible to distinguish between these two varieties based on their color. Low potency guggulsterones are produced in a yellow powder while the higher potency ones are brown.

High potency guggulsterones are most likely used by athletes and body builders in order to lose fat faster and attain better muscle definition. Lower potency may be used for minor purposes. However, it is recommended that the intake of the supplement be reduced to less than four months at a stretch. Typically, usage of guggulsterone supplements is not advisable on a long-term basis.

Some of the side effects of guggulsterones include allergic skin rash, pain in the abdomen, nausea, hiccups, burping, diarrhea, loss of appetite and nervousness. The supplement may render other cholesterol medications ineffective by reacting with them. Guggulsterones are not recommended for pregnant/breastfeeding women and children.

Last updated on May 23rd, 2010 and filed under Nutritional Information. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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