The Evidence

Plant Sterols - the evidence

There is a large body of scientific literature (NHMRC level I and II evidence) which demonstrates that plant sterol enriched foods effectively lower total and LDL cholesterol, whilst having little impact on HDL1.

The Heart Foundation's Position Statement on 'Dietary fats and dietary sterols and cardiovascular health' recommends that adults at high risk of lifestyle conditions consume 2-3grams of plant sterol enriched foods, such as low fat milk, each day, as part of a heart healthy diet. Their review of the scientific research concludes that plant sterol enriched foods can help lower cholesterol levels in Australian adults and thus may improve heart health2.

In general, the effect of plant sterols on cholesterol appears to be independent of the background diet and in fact a low fat, low saturated fat diet may have an additive effect2. The cholesterol lowering effect is also additive to most cholesterol medications2. Those on cholesterol lowering medications should review the use of plant sterol enriched foods with their GP to maximise how they can effectively be combined.

There are now more than six human scientific trials in plant sterol enriched milk, specifically3. The majority of the scientific trials were performed in middle aged, overweight adults. Consumption of the plant sterol enriched milk, providing 1-2grams of plant sterols a day was shown to lower LDL cholesterol by an average of 10% 3. These results were achieved in as little as 3 weeks.

For details and links to publications please go to the scientific studies section of this website.

1 Heart Foundation (2007) Summary of evidence on phytosterol/stanol enriched foods.

2 Heart Foundation (2009) Position statement on Dietary fat and dietary sterols for cardiovascular health. 3 Katan (2003) Mayo Clinic Proc 78, 965-978.

3 Clifton (2004) EJCN 58, 503-509; Thomsen (2004) EJCN 58, 860-70; Pouteau (2003) EJN 42(3), 154-164; Noakes (2005) EJN 44, 214-222; Beer (2001) Ann Nutr Metab 45(suppl 1), 1-604; Seppo (2007) EJN 46, 111-117.

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