Sunday, December 25, 2011

Can Plant Sterols Effectively Block Dietary Cholesterol Absorption? by Dr Sam Robbins

Plant sterols are a combination of sitosterol, campesterol and stigmasterol which are the plant equivalent of the human cholesterol. Though structurally similar to cholesterol, they are poorly absorbed by the intestine. Sterols from soyabean oil or pine oil are incorporated into food to help block the absorption of cholesterol from the diet.

Sterols are found naturally in small quantities in nuts, seeds, legumes, vegetable oils, fruits and vegetables. Typical Western diets consume about 150-400 mg of sterols per day. At these low levels they have a clinically insignificant effect on absorption of cholesterol.

Diet containing plant sterols to reduce cholesterol

In order to increase the consumption the diet must include:

• Five to nine servings the size of your fist of fruits and cooked vegetables. The anti-oxidants in these foods help to lower LDL “bad” cholesterol. Also, the tendency to eat fatty foods is reduced with higher intake of fruits and vegetables.

• A bowl of oatmeal or wholegrain cereal to help you feel “full” and also lower LDL cholesterol. Wholegrains include rice, brown rice, barley, corn and whole-wheat flour.

• Instead of oily snacks, eat a handful of nuts. Nuts are high in monounsaturated fats which lowers the LDL cholesterol while leaving the good HDL cholesterol intact.

• Eat unsaturated fats like those found in canola, olive or safflower oil which help to raise HDL cholesterol and lower the LDL cholesterol.

• Foods enriched with plant sterols such as margarine spreads, yoghurts and other foods can also help lower cholesterol.

HOLD OFF until you know the whole story about its effectiveness. Click here to read the Doctor’s Report on Plant Sterols.

Blocking action of plant sterols

The plant sterols, when ingested with food, compete with the cholesterol molecules to get absorbed in the bloodstream and transported to various parts of the body. By this action, the dietary cholesterol gets blocked and is not absorbed by the body. Subsequently, the plant sterols are not absorbed in the intestine and are therefore flushed out of the body.

Studies have shown that "Recommended daily intakes of plant sterols are usually between 2 and 3 g, at which level the expected reduction in LDL cholesterol is approximately 10%". Higher levels than this, taken for long periods, may reduce the levels of beta-carotene and other fat-soluble vitamins. This can be offset by increased intake of fruits and vegetables with high carotenoid content like dark green, yellow and orange fruits. However, taking plant sterols is not recommended for pregnant and lactating women, small children and overweight people.

The safety of plant sterols and stanols has been confirmed by an extensive safety evaluation programme and a sound history of safe use since 1999 in several European countries. The FDA has certified it as ‘heart healthy’ and the National Cholesterol Education Panel has issued a recommendation in 2001 that plant sterols and stanols be added to cholesterol-lowering regimens. Introduction of plant sterols into food through fortification of margarines and food oils might lower coronary heart disease for all.

Plant sterols are best used in conjunction with other key ingredients. To know what these are visit: