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Polyphenols can Potentially Prevent Atherosclerosis and Cardiovascular Disease by Modulating Macrophage Cholesterol Metabolism

[ Vol. 14 , Issue. 2 ]


Fumiaki Ito*   Pages 175 - 190 ( 16 )


Arterial atherosclerosis is the main pathological cause of coronary artery disease and peripheral arterial disease. Atherosclerosis is a chronic condition characterized by the presence of cholesterol-rich macrophages in the arterial intima. Accumulation of cholesterol in these macrophages is due to increased oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and its uptake via scavenger receptors on the macrophages. Cholesterol efflux from the cholesterol-laden macrophages into high-density lipoprotein (HDL) is also a key process in maintaining cholesterol homeostasis and preventing cholesterol accumulation. Four pathways for the efflux of cholesterol to HDL exist in macrophages, including passive and active pathways. Several HDL characteristics determine cholesterol efflux capacity, namely composition, oxidative status, and HDL size. Oxidation of LDL and HDL, as well as an imbalance in cholesterol uptake and efflux, could lead to the accumulation of cholesterol in macrophages and initiation of atherosclerogenesis.

Epidemiological studies have demonstrated that polyphenol-rich foods reduce cardiovascular events in the general population and in patients at risk of cardiovascular diseases. Many studies have reported that polyphenols in polyphenol-rich foods have anti-atherosclerotic properties by preventing cholesterol accumulation in macrophages through the suppression of lipoproteins oxidation and regulation of cholesterol uptake and efflux.


Atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, polyphenols, low-density lipoprotein, high-density lipoprotein, oxidation of lipoproteins, cholesterol efflux capacity, ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters, macrophage cholesterol metabolism.


The Institute of Prophylactic Pharmacology, Shinagawa, Tokyo140-0001

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