Phytosterols, phytostanols and their esters: from natural to functional foods

  • T. Bacchetti
  • S. Masciangelo
  • V. Bicchiega
  • E. Bertoli
  • Gianna FerrettiEmail author


Phytosterols, phytostanols and their esters are a group of steroid alcohols that occur naturally in plants. As natural constituents of plant structures, phytosterols contribute to the regulation of the fluidity and permeability of cell membranes. They are found mostly in vegetable oils, fruits, nuts, cereals and legumes. The most abundant phytosterols are β-sitosterol, campesterol and stigmasterol. During the last 15 years the market for phytosterols, as dietary supplements, has lead to a rapidly growing worldwide market for functional foods containing phytosterols and stanols. Even though many different clinical trials have clearly demonstrated that phytosterols reduce LDL-cholesterol, it is unclear whether phytosterols have a positive effect on cardiovascular disease. Until now, there are no data related to the effect of phytosterol consumption on the development of cardiovascular diseases. This review focuses on the biochemistry of phytosterols, their metabolism and role in health and in pathological conditions.


Phytosterols Phytostanols Functional foods 


Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • T. Bacchetti
    • 1
  • S. Masciangelo
    • 2
  • V. Bicchiega
    • 2
  • E. Bertoli
    • 1
  • Gianna Ferretti
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Biochimica, Biologia e GeneticaUniversità Politecnica delle MarcheAnconaItaly
  2. 2.Laboratorio Sperimentale di Ricerche Nutrizionali-Istituto Auxologico Italiano (IRCCS), Ospedale S. GiuseppePiancavallo (VB)Italy

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