A recent study has shown once again that naturally occurring plant compounds called phytosterols can help lower blood levels of cholesterol. Researchers at the Department of Internal Medicine at Washington University in St Louis studied 10 volunteer subjects with normal cholesterol levels to determine the effect of phytosterols present in wheat germ on cholesterol absorption.
All of the subjects were fed three different types of wheat germ containing muffins as the test meals on three separate occasions. The researchers added 30 mg of cholesterol with a chemical tracer to all of the muffins so cholesterol absorption could be measured. The three treatments included 1) muffins with 80 g of wheat germ and 328 mg of naturally occurring phytosterols, 2) muffins with wheat germ in which the phytosterols had been removed and 3) muffins with wheat germ in which the removed phytosterols were added back.
The researchers found that the muffins with naturally occurring phytosterols reduced cholesterol absorption by 42.8% compared to the phytosterol-free wheat germ muffins. There was no significant difference in efficiency of cholesterol absorption between the muffins with naturally occurring phytosterols and those with added purified phytosterols, suggesting that purified plant sterols, such as those found in sterol supplements, have the same cholesterol-lowering effect as naturally occurring sterols in foods.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Jun;77(6):1385-9; Veris Research.