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
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.
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
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.