If you’re like us, you’ve had “the talk” from your doctor cautioning that your LDL cholesterol is borderline high and advising prescription statin drugs to be on the safe side. And while it’s true that high levels of LDL cholesterol don’t bode well for your heart, it’s also true that cholesterol drugs come with various side effects. Plus, the meds can be pricey! Luckily, statins aren’t the only thing that can help keep your cholesterol in check. In fact, a recent study finds that a simple fruit extract you can blend into a natural drink dramatically lowers cholesterol.
The study, published in the journal BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies, found that amla fruit extract “lowered total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol (details below). The researchers advise that natural fruit extract “could be used as an adjunct to conventional therapy [such as] lifestyle modification and pharmacological intervention.”
But what the heck is amla? And should you be including it in your diet? We tapped several experts to find the answers.
What exactly is amla fruit?
Amla fruit, or “Indian gooseberry” is a small tree native to India and Southeast Asia. It produces golfball-sized green fruit, which is sour to taste but loaded with beneficial nutrients.
“Amla fruit is a natural source of numerous nutrients and antioxidants, including a high content of vitamin C,” explains osteopathic physician Kevin Huffman, DO, a board-certified bariatric physician who regularly shares diet and nutrition tips with his 30,000+ Facebook followers. “In essence, amla fruit can be seen as nature’s own vitamin C supplement, but it also offers many other beneficial compounds that contribute to overall well-being.”
People in places like India, Nepal, and Thailand have used amla fruit in recipes, drinks and natural remedies for hundreds of years. It’s a staple of Ayurvedic medicine, an Eastern philosophy that emphasizes a holistic and all-natural approach to physical and mental well-being.
How amla fruit extract lowers cholesterol naturally
Let’s get back to that study we mentioned earlier. A team of Indian scientists completed a 12-week randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study of 59 volunteers with metabolic syndrome. Roughly one in three adults has metabolic syndrome, a group of medical conditions associated with heart disease and type 2 diabetes. (Click through for tips on how to reverse prediabetes.)
During the study, participants were divided into three groups:
- Those taking a placebo twice daily
- Those taking 250 mg of amla fruit extract twice daily
- Those taking 500 mg of amla fruit extract twice daily
The results: Those who took the 500 mg supplement twice daily reduced LDL cholesterol by 21.8% and increased HDL (“good”) cholesterol by 22.2%. They also experienced a 19.2% drop in triglycerides (a type of fat that increases the risk of heart disease) and a 53.8% reduction of c-reactive protein (CRP), a substance produced by the liver in response to inflammation. (Research shows that high CRP increases the risk of heart disease.)
Pretty amazing, right?
Most of these benefits can be attributed to the fruit’s complex mix of biochemicals, explains Michael Witcher, PhD, associate professor of Medicine in the Departments of Oncology and Experimental Medicine at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.
“One broad class of molecules enriched within amla are called polyphenols. Polyphenols have potent antioxidant properties that prevent the oxidation (chemical change) of cholesterol into potentially harmful forms,” he explains. “Further, there is evidence that polyphenols promote the conversion of cholesterol to bile acids, thereby preventing the harmful accumulation of cholesterol within blood vessels.”
In other words, the fruit extract helps stop the buildup of arterial plaque, which how cholesterol can contribute to an increased risk of heart disease.
“I find the findings of this study to be highly promising for individuals struggling with high cholesterol and related health conditions,” adds Dr. Huffman, founder of Ambari Nutrition. “Notably, both dosages of 250mg and 500mg taken twice daily proved effective, with the higher dosage displaying even more pronounced benefits.”
Other health benefits of amla fruit powder
Since amla fruit is loaded with vitamin C and antioxidants, consuming it via supplement or blended into a drink may provide other health benefits, too, including:
1. Amla fruit powder benefit: heartburn relief
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is a common cause of chronic heartburn. It occurs when stomach acid flows backward into the esophagus, resulting in upper abdominal pain and/or the regurgitation of food.
In a four-week double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial, researchers found that participants who took 1,000 mg of amla fruit extract daily experienced a significant reduction in GERD symptoms compared to those who took a placebo. (Click through for 9 more ways to ease heartburn fast.)
2. Amla fruit powder benefit: younger looking skin
Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays is one of the leading causes of skin damage. A comprehensive review of different pharmaceutical creams found that the compounds in Indian gooseberry and other similar botanicals might protect against sun damage.
Another study found that the antioxidant compounds in the super fruit seemed to reduce the breakdown of collagen — a protein responsible for keeping your skin smooth and supple.
3. Amla fruit powder benefit: thicker hair
In Southeast Asian countries, like Thailand, botanicals like amla fruit are often used to support hair growth and prevent hair loss. And a study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology reviewed the effects of certain plants on hair growth. Of all the plants tested, amla was the second most potent inhibitor of hair loss. While these results are promising, the study was conducted on mice, so more research is needed. (If you struggle with thinning hair, click through to discover the inexpensive shampoo that can reverse hair loss.)
4. Amla fruit powder benefit: reduced cancer risk
Most cancer research on amla fruit extract has been conducted with animal models. However, the healing compounds within the plant offer promising results. Dr. Witcher has seen these benefits firsthand in his own research laboratory. “For me, the most interesting biomolecules within amla are a class of polyphenols called tannins,” he says. “Some of the tannins within amla have known anti-cancer properties and amla extract can kill tumor cells in a lab setting. There have also been a small number of reports that amla extract represses tumor growth in animals. It’s possible that taking amla extract daily may lower the risk of developing some cancers. This is an understudied, underfunded area of cancer research.”
The natural drink that lowers cholesterol
Amla may be best known in capsule form, but countless women are getting the perks of amla by mixing the powder version into smoothies!
“Amla fruit powder can provide similar benefits to nutritional supplements. The main difference lies in the form and how you prefer to include it in your diet,” Dr. Huffman says. “Amla powder is made by drying and grinding amla fruit, which preserves most of its nutritional value. It can be added to smoothies and yogurt or as a seasoning in cooking.”
A brand to try: Terrasoul Super Foods. Their organic amla fruit powder boasts a 4.5 star-average (Buy on Amazon, $14.99), and users can’t get enough of it. One Amazon reviewer, Carolynn, says the powder helped lower her cholesterol. “I have been using ½ tsp per day since I bought it [8 months ago]. My cholesterol went from 178 (not bad) down to 152! Seriously!”
And Andrea Wilson gives the powder a 5-star rating, noting that “I use the amla powder every day in my smoothie to help reduce my cholesterol.” Try blending a scoop of amla powder into these delicious smoothies!
Other ways to get your daily dose of the super fruit
If you’d rather take a supplement, follow Dr. Huffman’s advice: “I recommend looking for trusted brands that prioritize quality and transparency in their manufacturing processes,” he says. “Two reputable options in the market are Himalaya Organic Amla (Buy on Amazon, $16.99 for 60 capsules) and Organic India Amlaki (Buy on Amazon, $17.99 for 90 capsules).”
He adds, “I recommend these brands because they have a strong commitment to using organic amla fruit and prioritize rigorous quality control measures. What’s more, they carefully source their ingredients to ensure high potency, and their manufacturing processes are designed to preserve the natural goodness of the fruit.”
Dr. Witcher, on the other hand, recommends amla fruit supplements made by the Sabinsa company. “It’s trademarked as ‘Saberry’”, he says. “Many companies purchase Saberry and encapsulate it under their own brand name. I would look for ingredients that show the term Saberry extract or some other reference to Sabinsa Corp.” One to try: SuperSmart Double Amla (buy at Us.SuperSmart, $23 for 100 capsules)
Other companies, like Life Extension use Capros, another trademarked amla fruit extract. For example, Life Extension’s Advanced Lipid Control contains 500 mg of Capros in each dosage (Buy at LifeExtension.com, $22.50 for 60 capsules).
How much amla fruit extract you should take daily
Most supplements contain 250 mg to 500 mg of amla fruit extract — the same dosages that had the greatest impact on cholesterol reduction in the Indian study.
“I would recommend a supplement of 500 mg twice daily,” says Dr. Witcher. “However, consumers should be aware that amla may act as a laxative, so this should be kept in mind when finding the ideal dose. 250 mg twice daily may be sufficient for health benefits, particularly for those who are sensitive to the plant’s diuretic properties.”
Amla fruit extract has a proven safety record. Dr. Huffman adds “it’s important to know that the study found no adverse events among participants.” Still, it’s important to consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new vitamin or nutritional supplement, especially if you currently take prescription medication or have an underlying medical condition.
You should also avoid amla fruit extract if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Currently, there’s little research in terms of the plant’s effect on growing babies and breast milk.
Interested in more heart health news? Keep reading
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.