02 May 2007

Plant sterols cut cholesterol

Regular use of plant sterol esters in capsules improved blood lipid levels and may reduce heart disease risk, says a new study.

Regular use of plant sterol esters in capsules improved blood lipid levels and may reduce heart disease risk, says a new study said to be the first to examine the efficacy of sterols in capsules in humans.

The research study
The study, sponsored by Cognis Nutrition & Health who also provided the plant sterol esters (Vegapure), investigated the efficacy of the capsules in sixteen subjects in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, sequential study.

"In just three weeks after taking the plant sterol esters capsules, participants saw their LDL cholesterol drop by a significant 4 percent which could translate to a 5 to 10 percent reduction in cardiovascular risk in the first 5 years, and by 10 percent over a life time," said co-author David Cai from Cognis Nutrition & Health.

Numerous clinical trials in controlled settings have reported that daily consumption of 1,5 to 3g of phytosterols/-stanols from foods can reduce total cholesterol levels by eight to 17 percent, representing a significant reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease, but whether such benefits could be repeated if the delivery system was changed from food to capsules was not known.

"The clinical advantage of the capsule form is that it provides a convenient vehicle to consume these beneficial plant sterol esters minus the calories often associated with foods containing these ingredients," said Cai.

High cholesterol levels, hypercholesterolaemia, have a long association with many diseases, particularly cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Reduction in LDL-cholesterol levels
Writing in the journal Lipids in Health and Disease, lead author Robert Acuff from the East Tennessee State University reports that supplementation with the plant sterol esters capsules (1,3g of plant sterol esters, equivalent to 0,8g of free sterol) led to a reduction in LDL-cholesterol levels by seven percent after three weeks of supplementation, and four percent after four weeks.

The dose used in the study corresponded to the minimum amount of sterol esters the US FDA requires to satisfy the health claim allowed on foods and dietary supplements containing these heart health ingredients.

HDL-cholesterol levels increased by eight percent after three weeks, but this increase was no longer significant after four weeks (four percent increase).

The participants maintained a stable diet pattern throughout the study, which included an initial four-week placebo phase, two-week washout, and the final four-week plant sterol esters intervention phase.

Improved total:HDL ratio
The researcher also report an improved total:HDL cholesterol ratio (eight percent), reported to be the most specific lipid risk factor for CVD. Improvements in the ration of LDL (so-called 'bad' cholesterol) to HDL (so-called 'good' cholesterol) also improved (ten percent after four weeks).

"This study is the first study that confirmed regular use of plant sterol ester capsules is an effective strategy in improving lipid profiles, especially lipoprotein ratios, among hypercholesterolemic subjects in a free-living setting without dietary intervention," wrote the authors.

"However, to achieve better lipid lowering effects, higher dosages and incorporation of cholesterol-lowering regimen are recommended. Further studies are needed to confirm the long term benefit of plant sterol ester capsules on blood cholesterol in populations with varying baseline cholesterol levels," they concluded. - (Decision News Media, April 2007)

Read more:
Fibre, plant sterols and antioxidants
Cholesterol Centre


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