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Hyperlipidemia is a major factor contributing to atherosclerosis which can lead to ischemic heart disease
and stroke. Senegalia rugata (Lam.) Britton & Rose or som-poi leaf is an herb with antioxidant property and may help lower the risk of atherosclerosis. However, the data supporting this claim are still lacking. This study was therefore conducted to investigate the antioxidant activity and inhibitory activity of water extract of S. rugata leaf on cholesterol synthesis in vitro, and its lipid-lowering activity in cholesterol diet-induced hypercholesterolemic rats. Our findings revealed that S. rugata water extract exhibited a superoxide radical scavenging activity (IC50 =44.90 ± 4.17 mg/ml) and a dose-dependent inhibitory effect on HMG-CoA reductase (IC50 = 71.38 ± 5.80 mg/ml ). Concomittant daily administration of S. rugata water extract at the doses of 200–800 mg/kg BW/day or atorvastatin (20 mg/kg BW/day) with cholesterol diet in rats for 12 weeks could lower the elevated cholesterol and LDL levels comparable to the effect on hypercholesterolemic rats, but had no effect on triglyceride and HDL levels. In addition, S. rugata extract and atorvastatin did not affect liver and kidney functions, body weight and food consumption. In
conclusion, water extract of S. rugata leaves alleviated the increased lipid levels in hypercholesterolemic rats when given concomittantly with high fat diet. At least, its mechanism of action might involve inhibition of HMG-CoA reductase and its antioxidant effect might diminish the incidence of atherosclerosis. Further studies in vitro and in hypercholesterolemic rats on activity-guided isolation of bioactive constituent from subfractions of the water extract are required to develop a new standardized hypolipidemic herbal medicine from S. rugata leaf extract.
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