Intakes of plant stanols up to nine grams per day produced reductions in LDL cholesterol of 17.4 per cent, without affecting antioxidant defences, according to findings published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Current recommendations are for two grams of plant stanols per day.
“We have now shown for the first time that at daily intakes up to 9 g, the effects of plant stanols provided as their fatty acids lower LDL cholesterol in a dose-dependent linear way,” wrote researchers from Maastricht University and the University of Bon.
“Interestingly, at these intakes, effects were not very different from those obtained by the pharmaceutical cholesterol absorption inhibitor ezetimibe, which lowers LDL cholesterol by 15-25 per cent, both as monotherapy and in combination with statin and fibrate treatments,” added the researchers, led by Ronald Mensink.
The study used Raisio’s Benecol ingredient, and the Finnish company financed the study.
Plant sterols and stanols, 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.
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.
According to recent research from Frost & Sullivan, phytosterols are one the ‘big four’ ingredients that dominate the heart health market – the others being omega-3s, beta-glucans, and soy protein.
Mensink and his co-workers recruited 93 health subjects with an average age of about 56 and slightly raised cholesterol levels, and randomly assigned them to receive a stanol-free control margarine of soy-based yoghurt, or the margarine or yoghurt containing three, six, or nine grams of plant stanols.
After four weeks of intervention, the researchers noted that LDL cholesterol levels decreased more with increasing stanol doses. Indeed, people in the three grams per day group experienced LDL reductions of 7.4 per cent, compared with 11.9 and 17.4 per cent in the six and nine grams per day groups.
The researchers did not observe any changes – detrimental or positive – in beta-carotene, lutein, vitamin E levels, while HDL levels were also unaffected.
Mensink and his co-workers said that inconsistency within the literature prevented them from concluding that similar results would be observed for plant sterol-containing products.
Sterols/stanols and antioxidants
This is not the first study to report that the intake of sterols or stanols does not affect antioxidant defences. Indeed, a study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry (doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2009.07.001) in 2009 reported that, while a reduction in the levels of some antioxidants were observed, no overall detrimental effect on antioxidant defences was observed.
Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
July 2010, Volume 92, Pages 24-33
“Plant stanols dose-dependently decrease LDL-cholesterol concentrations, but not cholesterol-standardized fat-soluble antioxidant concentrations, at intakes up to 9 g/d”
Authors: R. Mensink, A. de Jong, D. Lutjohann, G.R.M.M. Haenen, J. Plat