How Do Plant Sterols And Stanols Affect My Body
Research has shown that plant sterols and stanols help lower cholesterol. Cholesterol is a waxy substance your body uses to protect nerves, make cell tissues, and produce certain hormones. Your liver makes all the cholesterol your body needs. Your body also gets cholesterol directly from the food you eat .
There are 2 types of cholesterol:
High levels of LDL cholesterol may damage your arteries and can be related to heart disease. A high level of HDL cholesterol, on the other hand, is usually a good sign. It may actually help protect your arteries and prevent fatty deposits that can clog arteries.
Why Are Stanols And Sterols Added To Foods
It is not possible to get enough plant stanols and sterols to help lower cholesterol from the foods we eat. However there is a range of dairy foods which have been fortified with plant stanols and sterols which can help you reach the amount needed to help lower your cholesterol. These include fortified milk, spreads, yoghurts and yoghurt drinks. These products are more expensive compared to ordinary spreads, milk and yoghurts and recent research suggests it is more important to buy healthy foods rather than stanols and sterols if money is tight. Both branded and own-label products are available.
Plant sterols and stanols may be also added to other foods as well as being present in supplements. However, because of a lack of research, it is not known if these products are as effective at lowering cholesterol as fortified dairy foods.
Saturated And Unsaturated Fat
There are 2 main types of fat: saturated and unsaturated. Eating too many foods high in saturated fat can raise the level of cholesterol in your blood.
Most people in the UK eat too much saturated fat.
Foods high in saturated fat include:
- meat pies
- cakes and biscuits
- foods containing coconut or palm oil
Eating foods that contain unsaturated fat instead of saturated fat can actually help reduce cholesterol levels.
Try to replace foods containing saturated fats with small amounts of foods high in unsaturated fats, such as:
- oily fish such as mackerel and salmon
- nuts such as almonds and cashews
- seeds such as sunflower and pumpkin seeds
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Summary Of Assessment Of A Health Claim About Plant Sterols In Foods And Blood Cholesterol Lowering
In August 2007, Health Canada’s Food Directorate received a submission requesting the approval of a disease risk reduction or therapeutic claim regarding plant sterols and reduction in LDL cholesterol. This decision document is a summary of the review that was conducted based on Health Canada’s Interim Guidance Document, Preparing a Submission for Foods with Health Claims .
In this decision document, the term plant sterolsFootnote 1 refers to both plant sterols and plant stanols, free or esterified, extracted from natural sources , as defined in the Notice of Safety Assessment of Certain Categories of foods containing added Phytosterols. The term “phytosterols” is a synonym for “plant sterols”.
LDL-cholesterol and total cholesterol were the endpoints measured in the reviewed studies. These are recognized risk factors for heart disease that are relevant to the Canadian population since about 50% of the general adult population is considered to be moderately to highly hypercholesterolemic.
Health Canada has concluded that acceptable scientific evidence exists in support of the claim about the relationship between the consumption of plant sterol-enriched foods as foods and blood cholesterol lowering. Consumption of these foods results in the lowering of total blood cholesterol as well as LDL-cholesterol levels, while having no detrimental effect on HDL-cholesterol levels, resulting in overall improvements in the blood lipid profile.
The Best Plant Sterols For Lowering Cholesterol
Over 100 clinical studies have demonstrated that plant sterols and stanols can significantly reduce blood cholesterol, which is why physicians around the world recommend them. Plant sterols can reduce LDL cholesterol by 5-15% in as little as 4-6 weeks.*
Several medical guidelines recommend consuming at least 2 grams of plant sterols per day including those that are part of your regular diet and from dietary supplements or supplemented foods.
There are three primary ways to consume enough plants sterols to lower your cholesterol:
- Foods naturally high in plant sterols
- Foods with added plant sterols
- Dietary supplements
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Benecol Products With Plant Stanols: Rapid And Sustained Efficacy In Cholesterol Reduction
Benecol is a range of foods which contain cholesterol-lowering plant stanol ester. Plant stanol ester is a compound that lowers blood cholesterol by interfering with and reducing cholesterol absorption in the small intestine.1 A daily intake of 1.53.0 g of plant stanols reduces LDL cholesterol by 712.5% in 23 weeks.2 This effect is sustained as long as the daily intake of plant stanol is within the recommended range.3
Can Plant Sterols Help You Lower Your Cholesterol
If youre wondering if consuming plant sterols to lower cholesterol has risks for you, looking at your DNA may be of help. The information hidden in your genes may help predict the best cholesterol-lowering strategies that work for you.
Weve discussed one gene that may influence your cholesterol. If you have a particular variant, plant sterols may help you improve your levels. However, that may not always be the case there might be other steps you could prioritize to optimize your health. For example, if you have a variant of the PCSK9 gene, supplementing with berberine could be a better choice for you .
For a gene-based approach to optimizing your cholesterol levels, you should check out SelfDecode. The SelfDecode Cholesterol DNA Wellness Report analyzes over 1 million genetic variants to give you personalized recommendations based on your DNA.
High cholesterol can lead to serious issues like heart disease, but there are steps you can take to prevent your heart health from deteriorating in the first place. SelfDecode can help you find out if consuming plant sterols is something that can work for you.
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Foods With Added Sterols And Stanols
Sterols and stanols are plant chemicals which are a similar size and shape to cholesterol. They are absorbed from the intestines into the blood stream and block some cholesterol from being absorbed, lowering the cholesterol in your blood.
We get a small amount of sterols from plant-based foods such as vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, but its not enough to lower cholesterol. So, food companies have developed foods with plant sterols or stanols added to them, such as mini yogurt drinks, fat spreads, milk and yogurts.
These fortified foods lower your cholesterol gradually, over a few weeks, and how much depends on the amount you eat. Some experts believe they are the most effective single food for lowering cholesterol.
Who should eat foods with sterols and stanols added?
Sterols and stanols have been thoroughly researched, so they can be added to foods and are safe to eat.
They are suitable for:
- People with high cholesterol theres no real benefit if you dont have high cholesterol.
- Children with inherited high cholesterol such as familial hypercholesterolaemia with support from a doctor or dietitian.
- People taking statins sterols and stanols will help to lower your cholesterol further because they work in a different way to the statin.
They are not suitable for:
Aim for: one to three servings of fortified foods a day. This will give you 1.5 to 3g of stanols and sterols.
Three servings of: OR
- 1 glass of milk
One product a day:
How Much Do I Need To Help Lower My Cholesterol
If you need to lower your cholesterol, the National Cholesterol Education Program recommends that you take in 2 grams of plant sterols and stanols each day. But plant sterols and stanols alone will not help you reach your cholesterol goals. To improve your cholesterol levels, you will also need to make lifestyle changes. These include eating a heart-healthy diet, exercising, and quitting smoking.
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Reducing Cholesterol With Plant Sterol Tablets
Plant sterols and stanols are available in tablet format and are a good option for those people who are comfortable taking pills. Some people may find the size of the pills too large to take them over the long term, or have difficulty remembering to bring the bottle with them if they are eating out.
Lowering Cholesterol With Piper Biosciences Cholesterol Wellness Kits
Plant sterols represent a clinically-proven, physician-recommended solution for cholesterol reduction*especially for those who are not yet candidates for prescription medications or who hope to avoid prescription medications and their side effects. Plant sterols work by preventing the reabsorption of cholesterol from the digestive tract. Those considering using plant sterols should choose a product that is enjoyable, convenient and manufactured by a trustworthy company. Those looking for a gummy containing plant sterols for cholesterol reduction may wish to consider the Piper Biosciences Cholesterol Wellness Kit.
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What Should You Eat To Lower Your Cholesterol
Nutrition is a highly complex topic, but eating a nutritious diet can be as simple as you want it to be. And most of us want it to be simple, so well start with some general rules of thumb for eating to lower your bad LDL cholesterol and raise your good HDL cholesterol.
- Cholesterols in food, which comes exclusively from animal products, dont necessarily raise your blood cholesterol. But in many cases, foods that have cholesterol also have high levels of saturated fat, which can increase bad cholesterol in your body.
- Strive to consume mostly plants in your dietfruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, and whole grains.
- Dont be afraid to perk up your lean meats and vegetables with lots of herbs and spices, which have numerous positive nutritional properties.
- Stay hydrated throughout the day to keep your bodys system working optimally.
- Aim to eat mostly whole, unprocessed or lightly processed foods. In general, the less processed it is, the better it is for you. Highly processed foods contain a lot of added sugar, unhealthy fats, salt, artificial ingredients, and chemical preservatives.
Here is a high-level rundown of the groups of foods that help lower cholesterol, followed by some tips for creating a cholesterol-lowering meal plan that works for you.
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- heart attack
- kidney failure
Foods Rich In Unsaturated Fats
- vegetable oils such as olive, sunflower, corn, rapeseed, nut and seed oils
- avocado, nuts and seeds
- fat spreads made from vegetable oils, such as sunflower and olive oil
- oily fish
Oily fish are a good source of healthy unsaturated fats, specifically a type called omega-3 fats. Aim to eat two portions of fish per week, at least one of which should be oily. A portion is 140g, but you could have two or three smaller portions throughout the week. Tinned, frozen or fresh all count e.g. salmon, sardines, pilchards, trout, herring and mackerel.
Avoid coconut and palm oil as, unlike other vegetable oils, they are high in saturated fat.
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Ways To Boost Plant Sterols In Your Diet
Simple changes can get more plant sterols into your diet, which will in turn help manage cholesterol levels.
Eating a balanced diet with lots of plant foods is important, says Sydney GP Dr Sam Hay.
Look for foods high in soluble fibre such as oats, beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas, fruit and vegetables.
Rebecca recommends starting the day with a plant sterol-enriched, bran-based cereal.
She says one 50g bowl of bran cereal contains enough plant sterols to get the recommended daily intake to help reduce cholesterol.
Plant Stanols Offer Additional Benefits Alongside A Cholesterol
The reduction in LDL-C achieved with plant stanol ester is independent of the background diet,3 and plant stanol ester works just as well in a diet with a relatively high content of saturated fat and cholesterol as in heart-healthy diets which are low in saturated fat and cholesterol.13,2123
Studies have shown that the cholesterol-lowering effect of plant stanol ester and that of a healthy, lipid-lowering diet are additive and that plant stanol ester can dose dependently reduce LDL-C by an additional 914%13,24 compared to a low-fat diet alone.
A cholesterol-lowering diet reduced LDL-C significantly by 10% within 8 weeks. The same diet with the addition of plant stanol ester resulted in a further 14% reduction in LDL-C.Adapted from Hallikainen et al. 1999.13LDL-C=low-density lipoprotein cholesterol.
In addition to lowering cholesterol, plant stanols also reduce the absorption of plant sterols. Plant stanols also reduce the absorption of both cholesterol and plant sterols across rare ABCG5/G8 gene variants, which have been shown to further increase plant sterol concentrations in blood.9 People with such rare ABCG5/G8 gene variants are at an increased risk of coronary artery disease.25
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Cholesterol Control: Statins Vs Plant Sterols
There are two main types of cholesterol: high-density lipoprotein and low-density lipoprotein . HDL cholesterol is considered good cholesterol because it helps the body get rid of LDL cholesterol, which is known as bad cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol can double your risk of having a heart attack.
Adopting healthy lifestyle habits and eating foods that increase HDL cholesterol and lower LDL cholesterol are good for your overall health. But these steps may not be enough for you. If your LDL cholesterol levels remain high after you improve your diet and exercise habits, you still have work to do to reduce your risk of heart disease.
Two possible solutions are statins and plant sterols. Statins are medications prescribed by a doctor, and plant sterols are substances found in certain plant-based foods. Lets look at how these two options compare in lowering cholesterol levels.
Statins work by lowering levels of LDL cholesterol in your body. They do this by reducing the amount of LDL cholesterol that your liver makes. Statins also help your body reabsorb any cholesterol thats built up in your arteries.
The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology recommend statins for certain people. These are people who:
Examples of statins available today include:
All of these foods contain low levels of plant sterols, though. So eating these foods may not make a big impact on your cholesterol level.
What Are Plant Sterols
If you were guessing by the name that it must somehow be similar to cholesterol, youd be right! What cholesterol does for cells in the human body, plant sterols do for plant cells.
You can find plant sterols in fortified foods like orange juice, margarine, bread, cheese, and a number of natural foods like:
Because plant sterols are similar in structure, the body tries to process them in a similar fashion and thus blocks out cholesterol from getting absorbed by your gut !
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Which Patients Can Benefit From Benecol Products With Added Plant Stanols
The 2019 joint European Atherosclerosis Society /European Society of Cardiology guidelines define the target groups for plant stanol ester use as:26
When helping your patients to manage their cholesterol, recommending they add Benecol foods with plant stanols to their diet can help them lower their LDL-C levels.2
Dietary And Lifestyle Changes
Dietary and lifestyle adjustments are key to making lasting changes in cholesterol levels.
Although they might not produce results as quickly as medications do, a person may notice their cholesterol levels drop in just a few weeks or months if they stick to a healthy diet and lifestyle plan.
Increase intake of plant foods
A 2017 study found that the people who ate vegetarian diets had significantly lower cholesterol levels than the participants following omnivorous diets.
The authors also note that some targeted diets using plant foods might cause stronger effects. For example, a diet rich in soluble fiber, plant sterols, and vegetable protein sources, such as soy and nuts, reduced LDL cholesterol by an average of 28.6% in just 4 weeks.
People who need to reduce their cholesterol quickly can work with a dietitian to create a targeted diet plan.
Increase fiber intake
While adding plant foods to the diet increases fiber intake naturally, it may also be helpful to take a fiber supplement or over-the-counter fiber drink to support the body.
Fiber keeps the digestive system healthy and may help prevent the body from absorbing cholesterol.
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Consider Plant Sterols And Stanols
Multiple types of supplements show promise for managing cholesterol.
Plant stanols and sterols are plant versions of cholesterol. Because they resemble cholesterol, they are absorbed from the diet like cholesterol.
However, because parts of their chemistry are different from human cholesterol, they do not contribute to clogged arteries.
Instead, they reduce cholesterol levels by competing with human cholesterol. When plant sterols are absorbed from the diet, this replaces the absorption of cholesterol.
Small amounts of plant stanols and sterols are naturally found in vegetable oils and are added to certain oils and butter substitutes.
A research review reported that clinical studies show that taking 1.53 grams of plant sterols/stanols daily can reduce LDL concentration by 7.512%. Researchers said taking it with a main meal twice per day allows for optimal cholesterol-lowering .
Although research has established the cholesterol-lowering benefit of plant stanols and sterols, it has not yet proved that they decrease the risk of heart disease. Numerous clinical trials have suggested that plant sterols supplements and enriched foods may lower heart disease risk, but hard data is still lacking .
Plant stanols and sterols in vegetable oil or margarines compete with cholesterol absorption and reduce LDL by up to 20%. They are not proven to reduce heart disease.