, Volume 10, Issue 6, pp 467-472
Date: 25 Nov 2008

Cholesterol-lowering effect of plant sterols

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Plant sterols are plant components that have a chemical structure similar to cholesterol except for the addition of an extra methyl or ethyl group; however, plant sterol absorption in humans is considerably less than that of cholesterol. In fact, plant sterols reduce cholesterol absorption and thus reduce circulating levels of cholesterol. Earlier studies that have tested the efficacy of plant sterols as cholesterol-lowering agents incorporated plant sterols into fat spreads. Later on, plant sterols were added to other food matrices, including juices, nonfat beverages, milk and yogurt, cheese, meat, croissants and muffins, and cereal and chocolate bars. The beneficial physiologic effects of plant sterols could be further enhanced by combining them with other beneficial substances, such as olive and fish oils, fibers, and soy proteins, or with exercise. The addition of plant sterols to the diet is suggested by health experts as a safe and effective way to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.