Snack Size Science: Taking heart from phytosterol review

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Plant sterols, Nutrition, Cholesterol

NutraIngredient’s Snack Size Science brings you the week's top science. This week we look at a review of phytosterol science. Phytosterol-enriched margarines and other foods are spread thickly on supermarket shelves, and a new review says there is no difference between stanols and sterols, or delivery in fat or non fat foods in terms of efficacy for reducing bad cholesterol levels.

The following is a transcript of this podcast:

This is NutraIngredients’s snack-sized science​. I’m Stephen Daniells - bringing you the week’s top science in digestible amounts.

Ask people about foods to reduce cholesterol levels and many would no doubt point to the plant sterol-containing margarines thickly spread on supermarket shelves. Consumer awareness of these products has blossomed on the back of some well-targeted marketing – like the on-going sponsorship of the London marathon by Unilever’s Flora pro-activ range.

And with the European market valued at an mouth watering €420 million, it is no wonder food containing sterols are spreading beyond margarines.

But whether the ingredients are effective in all the food formats has never been evaluated. Until now: Scientists from Unilever, no strangers to the world of plant sterols, collaborated with researchers at Waginengen University in the Netherlands to review 84 trials of the plant sterols in the various products.

According to results published in the latest issue of the Journal of Nutrition​, a daily two-gram dose of plant sterols can reduce levels of LDL – or bad – cholesterol by nine percent.

Overall, it doesn’t seem to matter if people consume the ingredients in their sterol or stanol form, neither does it diminish the benefits if fat or non-fat-based foods are used. Getting your sterols from dairy or non-dairy formats also doesn’t affect the results.

So, for people with high cholesterol levels, as well as functional food formulators looking for new ways of riding the cardiovascular health wave, there are plenty of reasons to take heart.

For NutraIngredients’ snack-sized science, I’m Stephen Daniells.

To read our full, in-depth coverage of the review please click here​.

Related topics: Research, Suppliers, Cardiovascular health

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