Sterols And Stanols Stand Tough

Fruits and vegetables contain health-promoting compounds called phytosterols, specifically sterols and stanols. These compounds have been investigated since the 1950s for their cholesterol-lowering effects and, as such, are some of the earliest functional food ingredients. In results of a recent meta-analysis, plant sterols and stanols lowered LDL cholesterol concentrations in a dose-dependent way. HDL cholesterol and triacylglycerol concentrations were not affected. The maximum effect on LDL cholesterol of 9 percent to 14 percent was reached when intake was between 2 and 2.5g/day.1 These effects were not dependent on dietary cholesterol intake,2 use of cholesterol-lowering medication3 or apoE genotype.4,5 Researchers theorize that diabetic subjects may benefit from plant stanol esters consumption.6

These and other findings support the FDA-authorized health claim interim final rule stating, "A diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol including two servings of foods containing plant sterol or stanol esters—supplying at least 1.3 plant sterols or 3.4 g plant stanols a day—may reduce the risk of heart disease."7


1. Law M. Plant sterol and stanol margarines and health. BMJ 2000;320:861-4.

2. Vanhanen HT, et al. Serum cholesterol, cholesterol precursors and plant sterols in hypercholesterolemic subjects with different apoE phenotypes during dietary sitostanol-ester treatment. J Lipid Res 1993;34:1535-44.

3. Blair S, et al. Incremental reduction of serum total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol with the addition of plant stanol ester-containing spread to statin treatment. Am J Cardiol 2000;86:46-52.

4. Plat J, Mensink RP. Vegetable oil-based versus wood-based stanol ester mixtures: effects on serum lipids and hemostatic factors in non-hypercholesterolemic subjects. Atherosclerosis 2000;148:101-12.

5. Hallikainen MA, et al. Plant stanol esters affect serum cholesterol concentrations of hypercholesterolemic men and women in a dose-dependent manner. J Nutr 2000;130:767-76.

6. Gylling H, Miettinen TA. Serum cholesterol and lipoprotein metabolism in hypercholesterolemic NIDDM patients before and during sitostanol ester-margarine treatment. Diabetologia 1994;37:773-80.

7. FDA Talk Paper;

Return to "Nutritional Compounds To Support Cholesterol Reduction"