Sterols in capsules effective for cholesterol cuts

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Plant sterol esters, Cholesterol

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 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 per cent which could translate to a 5 to 10 per cent reduction in cardiovascular risk in the first 5 years, and by 10 per cent 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 3 grams of phytosterols/-stanols from foods can reduce total cholesterol levels by eight to 17 per cent, 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), the cause of almost 50 per cent of deaths in Europe, and reported to cost the EU economy an estimated €169bn ($202bn) per year. 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 (1.3 grams of plant sterol esters, equivalent to 0.8 grams of free sterol) led to a reduction in LDL-cholesterol levels by seven per cent after three weeks of supplementation, and four per cent after four weeks. The dose used in the study corresponded to the minimum amount of sterol esters the U.S. FDA requires to satisfy the health claim allowed on foods and dietary supplements containing these heart health ingredients. HDL-cholesterol levels increased by eight per cent after three weeks, but this increase was no longer significant after four weeks (four per cent 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. The researcher also report an improved total:HDL cholesterol ratio (eight per cent), 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 per cent 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. A recent report from market analyst Frost & Sullivan valued the European market at €135.6m ($184.6m) in 2005, and estimates this to reach €290.4m ($395.2m) in 2012, an increase of 114 per cent. The top three players in Europe are currently Cognis, ADM and Raisio (Raisio's plant stanols were included for the purpose of market analysis), controlling 79 per cent of market share revenue between them, with the other 22 companies active in the European phytosterol market controlling the other 21 per cent. Source: Lipids in Health and Disease​ (BioMed Central) 2007, 6​:1, doi: 10.1186/1476-511X-6-11 "The lipid lowering effect of plant sterol ester capsules in hypercholesterolemic subjects"​ Authors: R.V. Acuff, D.J. Cai, Z.-P. Dong and D. Bell

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