Plant sterols: benefits, contraindications, where they are found

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Robert Maurer
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- plant sterols, or phytosterols, are compounds similar to cholesterol and therefore useful to compete against its absorption by the intestine. They are useful in case of hypercholesterolemia, let's find out more.

 

  • What are phytosterols
  • What are plant sterols used for
  • Where are the phytosterols found
  • Dosages and contraindications

 

What are phytosterols

And phytosterols, or plant sterols, are a family of molecules with a structure similar to that of cholesterol.

They are in plant cell membranes, where they play an important role, just like cholesterol in humans.

There are found in many foods and the most common forms are campesterol, sitosterol and stigmasterol.


 

What are phytosterols used for

Phytosterols, having structures similar to cholesterol, compete with its intestinal absorption, reducing it. This mechanism involves a lowering of LDL (bad) cholesterol, useful in case of hypercholesterolemia.

In particular, It has been observed that taking 2-3 grams of plant sterols for 3-4 weeks reduces LDL cholesterol about 10%.
Furthermore, according to some studies, phytosterols reduce the risk of lung, stomach, breast and prostate cancer.

It should be noted that, although man has developed the ability to absorb and use both cholesterol (which plays important roles) that plant sterols, the affinity for cholesterol remains much higher, while only small quantities of phytosterols are able to be absorbed in the intestine.
 


Phytosterols among the natural remedies against high cholesterol: discover the others

 


Where are the phytosterols found

Phytosterols are found in many common foods, mainly:

  • In nuts in shell;
  • in seeds;
  • in vegetable oils;
  • in cereals;
  • in fruit and vegetables

therefore, it is very simple to take them with the diet, of which the main source probably remains cereals, considering its mass consumption.


They are also contained in fermented red rice which, in addition to sterols, has a particular molecule (monacolina k) which works by reducing the synthesis of endogenous cholesterol.

Phytosterols are also found on the market in the form of supplements, which generally contain various forms of plant sterols.
 

Dosages and contraindications

Currently, no toxicity or other adverse effects emerge relating to the consumption of phytosterols. At concentrations useful for obtaining a reduction in plasma levels of total and LDL cholesterol, they are clinically safe.

The maximum allowable daily intake is 3 g, however, the possible integration and dosage must be carefully evaluated with your doctor.


 

READ MORE
The properties of fucus, rich in phytosterols

 

Bibliography and sources

Controversial role of plant sterol esters in the management of hypercholesterolaemia, European heart journal


Genetic defenses against noncholesterol sterols, Current opinion in lipidology

Efficacy and Safety of Plant Stanols and Sterols in the Management of Blood Cholesterol Levels, Mayo Clinic Proceedings Home

Plant sterols and risk of stomach cancer: a case-control study in Uruguay, Nutrition and cancer

Phytosterols and risk of lung cancer: A case-control study in Uruguay, Lung Cancer

Vegetables, fruits, and related nutrients and risk of breast cancer: a case-control study in Uruguay, Nutrition and cancer

Estimation of plant sterol and cholesterol intake in Finland: quality of new values and their effect on intake, British Journal of Nutrition

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