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Plant sterols and sitostanol esters


Plant sterols are natural dietary components with serum cholesterol-lowering properties. In clinical studies, the plant sterol, sitosterol and its derivatives such as sitostanol or acylated esters, all of which are natural components of vegetable oils and fats, have been demonstrated to lower cholesterol levels by 10-12%. In addition to lowering total cholesterol, the studies also established that LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol can be reduced by 10-15%.

More recent clinical studies have confirmed these initial results and have shown that both plant sterol and stanol esters can effectively lower cholesterol levels in humans to a degree broadly comparable with statin drugs. Both sitosterol and sitostanol appear to function by inhibiting the absorption of biliary and dietary cholesterol in the gastrointestinal tract, thus reducing circulating levels of total and LDL-cholesterol, although increased bile acid excretion has also been suggested as a mechanism. . Neither compound has any effect on HDL-cholesterol and triglycerides, other biomarkers of cardiovascular health.

Plant sterols have recently been recommended by the National Cholesterol Education Panel for use alongside the more traditional approaches of limiting saturated fat and cholesterol intakes, maintaining a healthy body weight and engaging in regular exercise, as a non-pharmacological approach to reduce low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. Recent data confirm the original observation that approximately 1.6 g of plant sterol esters per day results in a maximal low-density lipoprotein cholesterol lowering of approximately 10%. Few side-effects of plant sterols have been reported, with the exception of decreased levels of circulating carotenoids.

Take Control™ (active ingredient: plant sterol esters derived from soybean) and Benecol™ (active ingredient: plant stanol esters derived from wood pulp of pine trees) are two products that have reached the market place in recent years that make use of the LDL cholesterol-lowering properties of stanols and sterols.



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