What Are Plant Sterols?

Plant sterols occur naturally in small amounts in foods such as nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits and vegetables.

Plant sterols work by blocking cholesterol absorption, by competing with cholesterol absorption in the intestine. Plant sterols lower the amount of cholesterol, and in particular LDL cholesterol, the body absorbs.

How do plant sterols work?

Approximately 50% of the cholesterol we eat is absorbed in the intestine.

Plant sterols have a similar structure to cholesterol and compete with cholesterol absorption in the intestine. As a result, less cholesterol is absorbed1.

This results in lower total and LDL cholesterol in the blood, with little impact on HDL (or 'good') cholesterol2.

So when consumed in sufficient amounts (2-3g/day) plant sterols can help to lower blood cholesterol levels in just three weeks*.

1 Heart Foundation (2009) Position statement on phytosterol / stanol enriched foods.
2 Thomsen (2004) EJCN 58, 860-70.

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