Plant sterols in low fat milk effective for cholesterol cuts

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Cholesterol

Phytosterols incorporated into low-fat fermented milk was effective
in lowering LDL cholesterol levels in people with slightly elevated
cholesterol, French researchers have reported.

Writing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition​, Boris Hansel from Paris' Hôpital de la Pitié and co-workers report that daily consumption of the low fat milk containing 1.6 grams of phytosterols was effective in reducing LDL levels by eight per cent after six weeks. The study has implications for the plant sterols/stanols market since, while some low-fat and non-fat foods containing PS are commercially available, some studies have suggested that the cholesterol-lowering activity is reduced in such formats. Phytosterols, cholesterol-like molecules derived from plants, are increasingly well known to consumers due to their scientifically proven ability to reduce cholesterol levels. As consumer awareness has increased, the number of products containing plant sterols or plant stanols and their esters has increased. Indeed, a recent Frost and Sullivan report valued the European market at €146m ($184.6m) in 2005, and estimates this to reach €312.5m ($395.2m) in 2012, an increase of 114 per cent. 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 the majority of studies have looked at high-fat products as carriers for the sterols. The researchers recruited 194 subjects with LDL cholesterol levels between 130 and 190 milligrams pre deciliter and randomly assigned to consume two low-fat portions of plain fermented milk (control group) or the milk containing 0.8 grams of plant sterol ester (experimental group) or for six weeks. Hansel and cow-workers report that consumption of the sterol ester-containing milk led to plasma LDL-cholesterol reductions of 9.5 and 7.8 per cent after three and six weeks, respectively, compared to the control group. Moreover, concentrations of oxidised LDL were significantly reduced in the group consuming the plant sterol-enriched milk PS group compared with the control group. However, no significant changes in plasma triacylglycerol and HDL-cholesterol concentrations were reported. "Daily consumption of 1.6 g plant sterols in low-fat fermented milk efficiently lowers LDL cholesterol in subjects with moderate hypercholesterolemia without deleterious effects on biomarkers of oxidative stress,"​ concluded the researchers. 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. Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition​ September 2007, Volume 86, Number 3, Pages 790-796 "Effect of low-fat, fermented milk enriched with plant sterols on serum lipid profile and oxidative stress in moderate hypercholesterolemia" ​Authors: Boris Hansel, C. Nicolle, F. Lalanne, F. Tondu, T. Lassel, Y. Donazzolo, J. Ferrieres, M. Krempf, J.-L. Schlienger, B. Verges, M.J. Chapman and EE. Bruckert

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