Plant sterols help lower cholesterol

Diabetics, who have a tendency toward high cholesterol, may benefit the most from increased intake of plant sterols.

Experts in cholesterol management now recommend an intake of 1.3 grams of phytosterols (plant sterols) per day to help lower dietary cholesterol absorption and reduce harmful levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. A recent Canadian study supports this recommendation, especially for people with type 2 diabetes.

Researchers from McGill University report that plant sterols are highly effective in lowering LDL and total cholesterol levels. Because people with diabetes have higher than normal cholesterol synthesis and lower cholesterol absorption rates, the researchers at McGill wanted to look the potential benefits of increased plant sterols in the diet. They compared cholesterol and blood sugar levels before and after increased plant sterol consumption for 14 type 2 diabetics and 15 nondiabetics, both with high cholesterol. This controlled diet included 1.8 grams per day of either plant sterols or placebo for over three weeks.

They found that plant sterol consumption significantly reduced LDL (“bad”) cholesterol in both nondiabetic and diabetic subjects by 15.1% and 26.8%, respectively. The diabetic subjects also had significantly lower total cholesterol after treatment, leading the researchers to suggest that plant sterols could be a dietary management strategy for high cholesterol for people with type 2 diabetes.

Source: Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Jun;81(6):1351-8