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UHV researcher and locally grown plant help in national cholesterol research

Siva Somasundaram

The path that led federal researchers to make a presentation at a national conference about the cholesterol-fighting potential of curry leaves began at the University of Houston-Victoria.

A group of scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture presented the research in a poster titled “Characterization of Curry Leaf Polyphenolics and Their Antioxidant Activity” at the annual meeting of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology earlier this month in New Orleans.

The entire presentation started when Siva Somasundaram, a researcher and associate professor of biology at UHV, began researching the potential health benefits of curry leaves.

Curry leaves have long been a folk remedy in many cultures, Somasundaram said. He took samples grown in Victoria and extracted a number of chemicals that he found slowed the progression of human breast cancer lines in the laboratory.

“This was some of the first evidence that there was a scientific basis for the traditional medicinal use of curry leaves,” he said.

Somasundaram contacted his colleague Dave Luthria, a researcher with the USDA’s Food Composition and Methods Lab in Beltsville, Md., and suggested testing some of the same antioxidants to see how they might affect LDL, the “bad” cholesterol.

At Luthria’s request, Somasundaram packaged the leaves grown in Victoria and sent them off so Luthria could extract the chemicals himself and test their potential.

The results showed promising potential for future cholesterol treatments, but more research is still required, Somasundaram said.

"Until that research is completed, it can’t hurt to add a few curry leaves to your next meal,” Somasundaram said. “In addition to their possible health benefits, they also are quite tasty.”

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region, offers courses leading to more than 65 bachelor’s and master’s degree programs and concentrations in the schools of Arts & Sciences, Business Administration, Education & Human Development, and Nursing. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus as well as teaching sites in Fort Bend and Harris counties, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. Since its founding in 1973, UHV has provided students with a quality university education from excellent faculty at an affordable price.