A new study from Thailand (La-up, 2021) found traditional users of kratom had elevated levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good” cholesterol) and low levels of triglycerides, or “fats from the food we eat that are carried in the blood” (Cleveland Clinic 2019). High HDL, low levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad” cholesterol), and low triglycerides lower the risk of coronary heart disease. The researchers found no difference in LDL levels between kratom users and non-kratom users, despite a previous smaller study finding lower LDL in kratom users. Previous researchers, as pointed out in this study, found no difference in triglyceride levels.
In the largest recent study of its kind, researchers recruited 581 participants, half kratom consumers, and half who did not consume kratom as a control group. All participants were residents of the Nam Phu Subdistrict, Ban Na San District, Surat Thani Province. Though the Thai government is on the path toward legalization, kratom is still banned in Thailand for recreational use. In 2017, however, a law was passed to allow for traditional use of kratom in the Nam Phu. Therefore, scientists can conduct research in this subdistrict without fear of retribution from the authorities.
Participants were questioned as to the amount, duration, and frequency of their traditional kratom consumption, which is described in this study as chewing fresh leaves. Method of administration for all participants was not listed here, but the phrase traditional use of Kratom was emphasized. It can be reasonably assumed that some consumers used fresh leaf tea, which is also traditional.
Blood samples were taken from all participants, then analyzed. Researchers took into account sex, age, body mass index, use of alcohol and tobacco, prescribed drugs for other conditions, and exercise. Compared to the control group, users of traditionally prepared kratom showed significantly higher HDL counts and lower triglyceride levels, both favorable for heart health.
What this study does not show
- That kratom raises HDL and lowers triglycerides. As we know, correlation is not causation. But this along with previous studies indicates healthy cholesterol MAY be one of kratom’s many benefits. Pharmacologists should conduct further research into the mechanics of how kratom affects cholesterol.
- That consuming kratom at much higher doses than is consumed in traditional use would promote healthy cholesterol. Researchers used the phrase “traditional use of Kratom” eight times in this paper. “The traditional use of Kratom has involved chewing fresh leaves as an integral part of village life in Southern Thailand”. Participants were asked how many “leaves per day” they consume. American consumers of dried powder should know that oxidization of leaves changes the alkaloid profile, and therefore alters the effects of kratom from its traditional use. Also, the American diet is much different from the Thai diet, and so it’s unknown whether kratom supplementation would have much of an effect on someone who, for example, eats a steady diet of processed foods.
- That this is unique to the kratom plant. “Antioxidants in Kratom have a role in lowering triglycerides”, the researchers state in the Discussion section. However, they also point out that antioxidant effects are found “in many kinds of vegetables and fruits”.
Cleveland Clinic. (2019, January 6). Triglycerides & heart health. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/17583-triglycerides–heart-health
La-Up, A., Saengow, U., & Aramrattana, A. (2021). High serum high-density lipoprotein and low serum triglycerides in Kratom users: A study of Kratom users in Thailand. Heliyon, 7(4), e06931. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.heliyon.2021.e06931