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 Cardiometabolic Health

At present, there is limited but promising evidence that select maca phenotypes can favorably impact various markers of cardiometabolic health.

 

Animal Studies

 

An animal study using an aqueous extract of black maca (AEM) in golden hamsters identified 32 bioactive compounds of black maca that target 16 proteins involved in metabolism disorders. Of its benefits, AEM promoted glycolysis, inhibited gluconeogenesis, enhanced beta-oxidation, and upregulated tricarboxylic acid cycle. Lipid-lowering effects were also observed, including enhanced fatty acid oxidation and lipogenesis pathway inhibition. During this 20-week study, hamsters were fed a high-fat, high-fructose diet and were given AEM in a dose of 300, 600, or 1,200 mg/kg body weight. As the body weight, liver weight, and fat weight did not increase, it is suggested that black maca accelerated the metabolism of the animals. Additionally, at the higher doses (600 and 1,200 mg/kg), serum total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL-cholesterol, and insulin decreased (1).

 

Streptozotocin-induced diabetic mice were given black maca, yacon (a Peruvian plant), or one of three mixtures of a black maca/yacon extract (90/10, 50/50, or 10/90%). Each of the treatments significantly reduced glucose levels in diabetic mice, with the best effects observed in the 90/10 and 10/90% mixture of black maca/yacon. The authors propose quercetin, a polyphenol in maca, acts as a peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) agonist, which may reduce hyperglycemia, though they also attribute other phytochemicals to its benefits (i.e., beta-sitosterol). Black maca did not impact glycemia in animals with normal glucose levels (2).

 

Human Studies

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 175 participants was conducted for 12 weeks. Participants lived in either the low-altitude (LA) or high-altitude (HA) regions of Peru. They took 3 grams of black or red maca extract. Both black and red maca reduced blood glucose levels by eight weeks (p<0.05 and p<0.01, respectively), and levels remained decreased at week 12. Systolic blood pressure was reduced in weeks 8 and 12 in the HA group only, using black maca (p<0.01). Other health benefits were also observed, including improved energy and mood (3).

 

A significant decrease in systolic (p=0.05) and diastolic (p=0.01) blood pressure was observed in postmenopausal women using 3.3 grams per day of an unspecified color of maca for six weeks, though no differences in glucose or lipids were achieved (4). Similarly, systolic blood pressure was lower in men and women who regularly consumed maca as a food source compared to those who did not. (5)

 

A significant increase (p<0.05) of HDL-cholesterol was observed in early postmenopausal women seen using a proprietary formulation of Lepidium peruvianum, known as Maca-GO, when compared to placebo (6). In perimenopausal women, Maca-GO significantly improved HDL-cholesterol (p<0.01) and produced a significant reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure and BMI (p<0.05) (7). Both studies achieved these results in two months using a dose of 1,000 mg twice daily.

 

Further, black maca has been shown to provide improvements to markers that can impact cardiometabolic health, such as lowering select inflammatory markers (C-reactive protein, IL-6, and TNF alpha) (8,9), decreasing BMI (9), and improving cardiopulmonary endurance (10), though each of these studies included athletes for the population studied.

Author: Mona Fahoum, ND

Reviewer: Kim Ross, DCN

Last Updated: February 14, 2024

 

References

1. Wan W, Li H, Xiang J, Yi F, Xu L, Jiang B, et al. Aqueous Extract of Black Maca Prevents Metabolism Disorder via Regulating the Glycolysis/Gluconeogenesis-TCA Cycle and PPARα Signaling Activation in Golden Hamsters Fed a High-Fat, High-Fructose Diet. Front Pharmacol. 2018;9:333.

2. Gonzales GF, Gonzales-Castañeda C, Gasco M. A mixture of extracts from Peruvian plants (black maca and yacon) improves sperm count and reduced glycemia in mice with streptozotocin-induced diabetes. Toxicol Mech Methods. 2013;23(7).

3. Gonzales-Arimborgo C, Yupanqui I, Montero E, Alarcón-Yaquetto DE, Zevallos-Concha A, Caballero L, et al. Acceptability, Safety, and Efficacy of Oral Administration of Extracts of Black or Red Maca (Lepidium meyenii) in Adult Human Subjects: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2016 Aug 18;9(3).

4. Stojanovska L, Law C, Lai B, Chung T, Nelson K, Day S, et al. Maca reduces blood pressure and depression, in a pilot study in postmenopausal women. Climacteric. 2015;18(1).

5. Gonzales GF, Gasco M, Lozada-Requena I. Role of Maca (Lepidium meyenii) Consumption on Serum Interleukin-6 Levels and Health Status in Populations Living in the Peruvian Central Andes over 4000 m of Altitude. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition. 2013;68(4).

6. Meissner, HO Mscisz, A Bilinska-Reich, H, Kapczynski, W, Mrozikiewicz, P Bobkiewicz-Kozlowska, T Kedzia, B Lowicka, A Barchia I. Hormone-Balancing Effect of Pre-Gelatinized Organic Maca (Lepidium peruvianum Chacon): (II) Physiological and Symptomatic Responses of Early-Postmenopausal Women to Standardized doses of Maca in Double Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Multi-Centre C. Int J Biomed Sci. 2006;2(4):360–74.

7. Meissner HO, Reich-Bilinska H, Mscisz A, Kedzia B. Therapeutic Effects of Pre-Gelatinized Maca (Lepidium Peruvianum Chacon) used as a Non-Hormonal Alternative to HRT in Perimenopausal Women - Clinical Pilot Study. Int J Biomed Sci. 2006;

8. Lee E, Park M, Kim B, Kang S. Effect of Black Maca Supplementation on Inflammatory Markers and Physical Fitness in Male Elite Athletes. Nutrients. 2023;15(7).

9. Choi JW, Kang S. Effect of Intake Black Maca on Inflammatory Factors in Female Athletics. Journal of Sport and Dance Science. 2021 Dec 31;1(2):39–47.

10. Kang S, Ahn BO, Park MH, Lim ST, Lee E. Effects of Black Maca supplement on isokinetics muscular performance of elite women’s handball players: placebo-controlled, crossover study. Food Nutr Res. 2023;67.

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