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Plant Sterols

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Plant Sterols

Cholesterol lowering and decreased heart disease

Structure of steroids

Steroids are produced from cholesterol and have the structure as shown above. The carbon atoms have been labeled.

Plant sterols [Beta-sitosterol pictured below]

Is closely related to cholesterol --- in fact if carbons 241 and 242 were removed, cholesterol would be obtained.

How do plant sterols work to decrease cholesterol

  • Plant sterols compete for cholesterol in the intestine decreasing transport of this compound from the gastrointestinal tract thus lowering blood cholesterol levels.
  • Many spreads now contain plant sterols that are marketed for heart health.
  • The FDA allowed the following claim for plant sterols: "Foods containing at least 0.4 gram per serving of plant sterols, eaten twice a day with meals for a daily total intake of at least 0.8 gram, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease."

Studies on Heart & Vascular Health

  • One study found that consuming two grams of phytosterols daily could slash the risk of heart disease by 25%1
  • Another study in the Americal Journal of Clinical Nutrition noted decreased cholesterol absorption by 33% to 42%2

What you should know about plant sterols

  • A Finnish study in 2008 brought attention to the possibility of plant sterols accumulating in heart valves, suggesting that plant sterol intake may increase the risk of aortic valve stenosis.3

References: Plant Sterols

  1. Ostlund Jr, R. (2004). "Phytosterols and cholesterol metabolism." Current opinion in lipidology 15(1): 37.
  2. Mattson, F. (1982). Optimizing the effect of plant sterols on cholesterol absorption in man, Am Soc Nutrition. 35: 697-700.
  3. Helske S, Miettinen T, Gylling H, Mäyränpää M, Lommi J, Turto H, Werkkala K, Kupari M, Kovanen PT. (2008). "Accumulation of cholesterol precursors and plant sterols in human stenotic aortic valves.". J Lipid Res 49 (7): 1511-8.

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