More support for encapsulated sterols for cholesterol cuts

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Sterol esters, Cholesterol

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

Writing in the journal Nutrition​, lead author Conrad Earnest from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge reports that encapsulation of phytosterols reduced total and LDL-cholesterol levels by 3.5 and five per cent, respectively. 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 has not been extensively studied. Earnest and co-workers from Hopital Laval Research Centre and Laval University, recruited 54 men and women (age range 20 to 70) and randomly assigned them to receive daily supplements of encapsulated phytosterol esters (2.6 grams) or a matching placebo for 12 weeks All participants had starting LDL-cholesterol levels of at least 3.33 millimoles per litre of blood. 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. At the end of the study, it was found that total cholesterol levels had decreased by 3.52 per cent in the phytosterol group, and increased by 2.64 per cent for the placebo group. Supplementation with the phytosterols also decreased LDL-cholesterol levels by five per cent, while the placebo group experienced an average of 4.89 per cent increases in LDL-cholesterol. It should be noted that the dose used in the study corresponded to double 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. "When ingested via food products, the optimal dose of phytosterols appears to be around 2 grams per day; however, the optimal dose of phytosterols when ingested in capsular form remains largely unexplored,"​ said the researchers. "Our findings indicate that encapsulated phytosterol ester ingestion at 2.6 g/d does modulate some plasma lipid parameters, but it is possible that higher doses of phytosterols, when administered in this form, would be more effective,"​ they added. "Although our findings are promising, we propose that future research should focus on the optimal timing and dose of phytosterol supplementation when administered in capsular form, and future investigations should explore the utility of encapsulated phytosterol ingestion in larger, more heterogeneous populations,"​ concluded the researchers. The study is inline with a recent study, sponsored by Cognis Nutrition & Health, which showed that regular use of plant sterol esters in capsules improved blood lipid levels in sixteen subjects in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, sequential study (Lipids in Health and Disease​, 2007, 6​:1). Source: Nutrition​ (Elsevier) Published on-line ahead of print, doi:10.1016/j.nut.2007.06.003 "Examination of encapsulated phytosterol ester supplementation on lipid indices associated with cardiovascular disease" ​Authors: C.P. Earnest, C.R. Mikus, I. Lemieux, B.J. Arsenault and T.S. Church

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