|Phytosterols, Cholesterol, |
plant materials such as nuts, grains, seeds and leaves and vegetable oils (particularly soybean oil). They have a similar chemical structure to cholesterol, but they are absorbed by the gut at much lower levels than cholesterol.
humans it is synthesized by the liver, but an appreciable amount may also be consumed through the diet. It is needed by the body since it is a building block for steroid hormones, such as testosterone and oestrogen, and for cell walls. However, it has been well established that raised blood cholesterol, particularly low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, increases the risk of coronary heart disease. Excess LDL cholesterol can be oxidized to ultimately form plaque that can build up on artery walls, thereby restricting blood flow and raising blood pressure. This is just one way that coronary heart disease develops in those at risk, and if left untreated, could lead to a heart attack or a stroke.
How Much and Where From?
A normal persons daily intake of phytosterols from food is not sufficient to have any significant effect on cholesterol absorption. Research suggests that 800mg up to 3g/day of
phytosterols should be consumed in order to reduce LDL cholesterol levels by between 9%-
20%, although there is a lot of variation amongst individuals. Studies have also shown that
phytosterols appear to enhance the effects of statins* on lowering cholesterol.
Recently it has been made possible to incorporate phytosterols in foods such as margarines (e.g. Benecol & Flora pro activ) and the public awareness of phytosterols has been
greatly enhanced as a result. Phytosterols
Taking phytosterols in the form of a capsule is
simple and convenient and does not require
adjusting the normal diet to include special
foods. However, best results will be obtained by
following a healthy diet rich in fruit and
vegetables and low in saturated fats, together
with an active lifestyle.