Avenasterol, B-sitosterol 3-B-D-glucoside, B-Sitosterolin, B-Sitosterols, Beta Sitosterin, Bêta-sitostérine, Beta Sitosterol, Bêta-Sitostérol, Beta-sitosterol glucoside, Beta-sitosterol glycoside, Betasitosterol, Brassicasterol, Campest-5-en-3beta-ol, Campesterol, Campestérol,Cinchol, Cupreol, Dihydro-beta-sitosterol, Ester de Stérol Végétal, Esters de Phytostérol, Esters de Stérol Dérivés d'huile Végétale, Glucoside de Bêta-Sitostérol, Phytosterol, Phytostérol, Phytosterol Esters, Phytosterols, Phytostérols, Plant Phytosterols, Plant Sterol Esters, Plant Sterolins, Quebrachol, Rhamnol, Sitosterin, Sitosterol, Sitosterolins, Sitosterols, Sterinol, Stérolines, Stérolines Végétales, Sterolins, Stérols Végétaux, Stigmasterin, Stigmasterol, Stigmastérol, Vegetable Oil Sterol Esters, Vegetable Sterol Esters, 5,22-Stigmastadien-3beta-ol, 3-beta, 3-beta-stigmast-5-en-3-ol, 22,23-dihydrostigmasterol, 24-beta-ethyl-delta-5-cholesten-3beta-ol, 24-ethyl-cholesterol.
Plant sterols are a group of substances made in plants. Plant sterols are found in the highest amounts in foods like vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds. Plant sterols are used as medicine.
Plant sterols are taken by mouth to lower cholesterol levels and help prevent heart disease and heart attacks. Plant sterols are also used for some cancers such as stomach cancer, colon cancer, and rectal cancer. Plant sterols are also used for weight loss.
In foods, plant sterols are added to some types of margarine. The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows manufacturers to claim that foods containing plant sterol esters can help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). This rule is based on the FDA's conclusion that plant sterol esters may reduce the risk of CHD by lowering blood cholesterol levels. There is plenty of evidence that plant sterols do lower cholesterol levels. But there is no proof that long-term use actually lowers the risk of developing CHD.
Don't confuse plant sterols with beta-sitosterol. Beta-sitosterol is one type of plant sterol. However, it also has its own uses. Also don't confuse plant sterols with sitostanol. Sitostanol is a plant stanol.
How does it work?
Plant sterols are a group of plant substances that resemble cholesterol. They might help reduce cholesterol levels by limiting the amount of cholesterol that is able to enter the body. Some plant sterols might also reduce how much cholesterol is made in the body.
Likely Effective for...
- Reducing cholesterol levels in people with an inherited tendency toward high cholesterol (familial hypercholesterolemia). Plant sterols are effective for reducing cholesterol levels in children and adults with high cholesterol levels due to familial hypercholesterolemia. When taken in people who are also following a low-fat or cholesterol-lowering diet, plant sterols can reduce total and "bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol more than the diet alone. Plant sterols don't decrease blood fats called triglycerides or increase "good" high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels.
- High cholesterol. Taking plant sterols significantly lowers total and "bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels by about 3% to 15% in people with high cholesterol who are following a cholesterol-lowering diet. When added to a cholesterol-lowering prescription medication (one of the "statins," such as pravastatin (Pravachol) or simvastatin (Zocor), plant sterols reduces total cholesterol by an additional 12 mg/dL and LDL cholesterol by another 11 mg/dL. Plant sterols may work best in people whose bodies make a lot of cholesterol.
Plant sterols can be incorporated in margarines, dairy products, and breads and cereals, or taken in pill form. Research suggests a dose of about 2-3 grams daily lowers cholesterol the most. But plant sterols may stop working as well when taken for more than 2-3 months. Plant sterols don't raise "good" high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels.
Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...
- Colon and rectal cancer. People who eat more plant sterols as part of their diet don't have a lower risk of colon cancer compared to people who eat less plant sterols. Also women who eat more plant sterols don't have a lower risk of rectal cancer compared to women who eat less plant sterols. But men who eat more plant sterols might have a lower risk of rectal cancer compared to men who eat less plant sterols.
- Cancer of the stomach. People who eat at least 82.5 mg of plant sterols daily as part of their diet seem to have a lower risk of gastric cancer compared to people who eat less than 45.5 mg daily.
- Metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that increase the risk of having heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. These conditions include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and excess fat. Some research shows that taking 2 grams of plant sterols twice daily reduces cholesterol levels in people with metabolic syndrome. But other research shows that taking 2 grams of plant sterols once daily does not lower cholesterol levels in people with metabolic syndrome.
- Heart attack. Men who eat more plant sterols as part of their diet have a 29% lower risk of having a heart attack compared to men who eat less. But women who eat more plant sterols don't seem to have a lower risk of having a heart attack compared to women who eat less.
- Obesity. Early research shows that eating a snack bar containing 1.8 grams of plant sterols lowers total cholesterol levels by about 10% compared to eating the snack bar alone in people who are obese and trying to lose weight. But eating the snack bar containing plant sterols doesn't increase weight loss, reduce "bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, or improve blood sugar levels compared to eating a snack bar that doesn't contain plant sterols.
- Heart disease.
- Other conditions.
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).
Plant sterols are LIKELY SAFE for most people when taken by mouth. They can cause some side effects, such as diarrhea or fat in the stool.
Sitosterolemia, a rare inherited fat storage disease: Plant sterols can build up in the blood and tissue of people with this condition. This build-up can make these people prone to early heart disease. Taking plant sterols might make this condition worse. Don't take plant sterols if you have sitosterolemia.
Short bowel syndrome, a condition related to removal of part of the gut: Worsening of liver function has been reported for a person with short bowel syndrome who was given nutrients containing plant sterols. Liver function improved when the plant sterols were removed from the nutrients. It's not clear if the plant sterols were responsible. Until more is known, don't take plant sterols if you have short bowel syndrome.
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
- For reducing cholesterol levels in adults with an inherited tendency toward high cholesterol (familial hypercholesterolemia): 1.6-1.8 grams of plant sterols per day for 8-26 weeks have been used.
- For high cholesterol: 200 mg to 9 grams of plant sterols per day have been tried. However, doses above 2-3 grams per day don't seem to work any better than 2-3 grams per day.
- For reducing cholesterol levels in children with an inherited tendency toward high cholesterol (familial hypercholesterolemia): 1.6-2.3 grams of plant sterols per day have been used in children 6-16 years-old.
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