Plant sterols are fatty constituents occurring naturally in many fruits, vegetable oils, grains, nuts, seeds, and soybeans. They are an essential component of the plant cell membranes with a chemical structure similar to that of cholesterol; other constituents of plant sterols include beta-sitosterol, stanols, and sterolins. Notably, to get the maximum amount of plant sterols, one needs to consume a lot of these foods; for instance, to get 2 grams of plant sterols, one should take 100 pounds of vegetables. Ideally, plant sterols have been incorporated in many foods, including margarine, orange juice, beverages, and other nutritional supplements. Studies have shown that plant sterols could be added to foods as naturally occurring substances where they displace a significant amount of calories from food. Researchers have confirmed the unique cholesterol lowering property of plant sterols, which helps to reduce blood cholesterol absorption and enhancing cholesterol excretion thereby promoting cardiovascular health. Other medicinal properties of plant sterols include anti-inflammatory and immune-stimulating effect.
Plant sterols benefits
Plant sterols help to lower cholesterol levels; a study published in New England Journal of Medicine shows that plant sterols have incredible cholesterol-reducing properties. For instance, a daily intake of 1,800–2,600 mg of plant sterols can lower the concentrations of serum low-density lipids (LDL) regarded as bad cholesterol by 10 to 14.1 percent. Essentially, it enhances the absorption of cholesterol in the small intestine, which lowers blood levels of LDL; besides, it boosts the action of high-density lipoproteins (HDL), which eliminates the excess cholesterol deposits, resulting in greatly improved cholesterol ratios. Thus, it helps to lower atherosclerosis and other heart diseases such as hypertension and stroke by 25%. Apparently, plant sterols do not interfere with other cholesterol-lowering medication and can be safely combined with other related drugs. Hence, the American Heart Association has recommended the consumption of plant sterols as a way of promoting cardiovascular health.
Plant sterols treat Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH); a study in the British Journal of Urology have shown that plant sterols can be used to treat BPH, a non-cancerous condition that results in the enlargement and swelling of the prostate glands. An enlarged prostate gland exerts pressure on the urethra leading to urinary tract problems such as painful urination, frequent urination, reduced flow of urine, and more frequent urination at night. Plant sterols exert an anti-inflammatory effect that promotes prostate gland relief and reduced swelling.
Plant sterols helps improve the Immune system; Research in Alternative Medicine Review has found that plant sterols regulate and enhance various immune responses and boost the activity of natural killing cells, which are specialized cells responsible for immune control. Also, plant sterols have an anti-inflammatory property, which reduces pro-inflammatory cellular responses and boosts the production of disease-preventing T-cells by close to 920 percent in healthy adults. Other studies published in the International Journal of Immunopharmacology have shown that plant sterols in combination with sterolins are extremely efficient in various diseases including Rheumatoid arthritis, different types of cancer, hepatitis C, allergies, chronic fatigue, and stress-induced immune suppression. Plant sterols are involved in modulation of the immune system; thus they stimulate an inactive immune system and reduce an over stimulated immune system, according to research by Patrick J.D. Bouic, Ph.D.
Plant sterols dosage
According to the FDA, products containing 1.3g per serving or two capsules of plant sterol can be taken once daily with meals for maximum cardiovascular benefits. For balance and improved immune system functioning, take Moducare on an empty stomach or about two hours after a low-calorie meal for maximum absorption. Moducare is a unique patented formula containing isolated molecules of plant sterols and sterolins and is available in various medical dispensaries. For lowering blood cholesterol, take 200-250 mg of plant sterols, three times daily with meals, according to National Cholesterol Education Program. For the cholesterol-controlling types of margarine such as Benecol, take a dose of 2 tablespoons daily to lower cholesterol levels. For an enlarged prostate (BPH), take a dosage ranging from 125-250 mg a day, on an empty stomach to improve its absorption into the blood stream.
Plant sterols Side Effects
At typical doses, there are no side effects or any adverse reactions associated with plant sterols and their products. However, Indigestion, diarrhea, constipation, nausea have occasionally been reported.
Warnings and General Drug Interaction
Ideally, plant sterols do not cause any interactions with other drugs or nutrients, and no related clinical cases have been reported. Apparently, there may be reduced absorption of carotenoids and vitamin E into the body but these findings are under clinical debate. Information regarding the safety and efficacy of plant sterols in pregnant and lactating mothers is lacking. One should seek advice and guidance from a medical doctor before taking plants sterol or stanol supplements.
- European Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Plant sterol-enriched margarines and reduction of plasma total- and LDL-cholesterol concentrations in normocholesterolaemic and mildly hypercholesterolaemic subjects.
- New England Journal of Medicine: Reduction of serum cholesterol with sitostanol-ester margarine in a mildly hypercholesterolemic population.
- Atherosclerosis: Dietary sitostanol related to absorption, synthesis and serum level of cholesterol in different apolipoprotein E phenotypes.
- British Journal of Urology: A multicentric, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial of beta-sitosterol (phytosterol) for the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia. German BPH-Phyto Study group.
- BJU International: Treatment of symptomatic benign prostatic hyperplasia with beta-sitosterol: an 18-month follow-up.
- Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology: Review article: effects of plant sterols and stanols beyond low-density lipoprotein cholesterol lowering.
- Alternative Medicine Review: Plant sterols and sterolins: a review of their immune-modulating properties.