Phytosterol, Squalene, Tocopherol Content and Fatty Acid Profile of Selected Seeds, Grains, and Legumes


The unsaponifiable lipid fraction of plant-based foods is a potential source of bioactive components such as phytosterols, squalene, and tocopherols. The objective of the present study was to determine the levels of phytosterols, and squalene, as well as tocopherols (α and β + γ) in selected grains, seeds, and legumes. The method comprised acid hydrolysis and lipid extraction followed by alkaline saponification, prior to analysis by HPLC. In addition, the fatty acid profile of the foods was determined via total lipid extraction, fatty acid derivitisation and GC analysis. In general, β-sitosterol was the most prevalent phytosterol, ranging in concentration from 24.9 mg/100 g in pumpkin seed to 191.4 mg/100 g in peas. Squalene identified in all foods examined in this study, was particularly abundant in pumpkin seed (89.0 mg/100 g). The sum of α- and β+ γ-tocopherols ranged from 0.1 mg/100 g in rye to 15.9 mg/100 g in pumpkin seeds. Total oil content ranged from 0.9% (w/w) in butter beans to 42.3% (w/w) in pumpkin seed and the type of fat, in all foods examined, was predominantly unsaturated. In conclusion, seeds, grains, and legumes are a rich natural source of phytosterols. Additionally, they contain noticeable amounts of squalene and tocopherols, and in general, their fatty acid profile is favorable.

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coronary heart disease


fatty acid methyl esters


gas chromatography


high performance liquid chromatography


low-density lipoprotein


monounsaturated fatty acids


not detected




polyunsaturated fatty acids


sister chromatid exchange


saturated fatty acids




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This work has been supported by Enterprise Ireland Basic Research Grant.

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Correspondence to N. M. O’Brien.

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Ryan, E., Galvin, K., O’Connor, T.P. et al. Phytosterol, Squalene, Tocopherol Content and Fatty Acid Profile of Selected Seeds, Grains, and Legumes. Plant Foods Hum Nutr 62, 85–91 (2007).

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  • Phytosterols
  • Squalene
  • Tocopherols
  • Seeds
  • Legumes
  • Cereals