Study supports free phytosterols’ cholesterol lowering activity

Plant sterols in supplement form may cut cholesterol levels by as much as 5%, says a new study.
Six weeks of supplementation reduced LDL cholesterol levels by 4.9% and total cholesterol by 2.8% when the supplement was used in combination with the National Cholesterol Education Programa (NCEP) therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLC) diet.
Numerous clinical trials in controlled settings have reported that daily consumption of 1.5 to 3 grams of phytosterols/-stanols from foods can reduce total cholesterol levels by 8 to 17%, representing a significant reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease. However, few have investigated the effects of phytosterols as supplements.
To redress this balance, the researchers recruited 32 men and women, aged between 21 and 79 with elevated LDL cholesterol levels. Participants were randomly assigned to receive 1.8 grams daily of free plant sterols and stanols or placebo for six weeks in combination with the TLC diet.
Results of the double-blind crossover study indicated that the sterol group displayed an average 4.9% decrease in LDL levels, an average 3.6% decrease in non-HDL levels, and a 2.8% decrease in total cholesterol levels, compared to the control.
On the other hand, no changes were observed for HDL or triglyceride levels, added the researchers.
“Intervention trials have shown that each 1% reduction in LDL-C lowers the risk of a major cardiovascular event by about 1% over a period of 5 years,” explained the researchers. “However, the cardiovascular benefit of maintaining low levels of atherogenic lipoprotein cholesterol levels over decades may be larger than would be predicted on the basis of results from short-term cholesterol-lowering intervention trials.”
“Each 1% reduction in LDL-C or non-HDL-C may be associated with as much as a 3% reduction in coronary heart disease) event risk if maintained over an extended period.”
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Source: Nutraingredients