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Using Plant Nutrients to Lower LDL-C Bad Cholesterol

Plants possess their own eco-system, which rely on cholesterol-like compounds known as phytosterols (PSS) – sterols (PSter) and stanols (PStan). Clevelandclinic.org says, “because phytosterols are structurally similar to the body’s cholesterol, when they are consumed, they compete with cholesterol for absorption in the digestive system.”

Research – LDL-Cholesterol (low density lipoprotein) Lowering of Plant Sterols and Stanols (PSS) – Which Factors Influence Efficacy – appearing in the September issue of the online, open access journal Nutrients – says, “food sources of PSS are vegetable oils, vegetable oil-based margarines, seeds, nuts, grain products, vegetables, legumes, and fruits next to various food formats and food supplements with added PSter or PStan.”

Additionally, “PSS intake from natural sources ranges between 200 and 400 mg/day with habitual diets and up to 600 mg with vegan or vegetarian-type diets. Higher intakes can only be achieved by consuming typical servings of food products enriched with PSS, such as fat-based spreads and margarines, or dairy-type foods like milk, yogurt, and yogurt drinks.”

PSS contents of such foods are typically 0.75 to 2 grams (g) per serving size.

Cholesterol, according to Medlineplus.gov, is a waxy, fat-like substance that’s found in all cells of the body – manufactured by the body and also derived from foods, such as meat and daily products. Too much cholesterol in the blood has coronary artery disease implications.

LDL-C (bad cholesterol) elevation can lead to a buildup in the arteries, while its counterpart, HDL (good) cholesterol – high density lipoprotein – carries the LDL-C back to the liver to be removed from the body – known as reverse cholesterol transport.

Prior research on the LDL-C lowering effect of PSS has focused on numerous randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials – with one recent compilation of similar studies composed of 124 clinical trials, representing 9600 participants.

According to the Nutrients research, “the average PSS intake was 2.1 g/day (range 0.2–9.0 g/day), and overall, a consistent dose-response relationship for lowering LDL-C by 6–12% with intakes of 0.6–3.3 g/day was found.”

The Nutrient researchers performed a literature review – based on the fact that the LDL-C lowering effect of plant PSS in several meta-analyses (multiple, similar studies) demonstrated a dose-response relationship with intakes of 1.5 to 3 grams per day – lowering LDL-C by 7.5% to 12%.

It was determined that research on PSS consumption – foods or supplements -above 4 g/day is inadequate – without a decisive conclusion on whether or not the dose-response relationship would continue. In other words, where’s the cut-off point for benefits? There is also limited data on whether or not the cholesterol lowering effect of PSter or PStan at higher doses would alter the outcome.

The reviewers point out that, “PSS were amongst the first ingredients, which received authorized health claims by regulatory bodies, such as the European Food and Safety Authority and the US Food and Drug Administration.”

The research notes that PSS are demonstrated to be effective in various types of foods, like fat-based spreads, margarines, dairy-type foods, and food supplements (capsules and tablets) – “facilitating choice for a sufficient intake of PSS to obtain their cholesterol-lowering benefit.”

In comparison to multiple daily intakes, it appears that a once-a-day intake of PSS, especially in the morning with a light breakfast, seems sub-optimal for lowering LDL-C. Meal intake and content (fat content of a meal) are, “critical factors for an optimal LDL-C efficacy with PSS-added foods and food supplements.”

All of which led the reviewers to state, “consuming at least 2 g/day of PSS in the form of enriched foods or food supplements, as an additional adjunct to a healthy diet are amongst the recommended dietary interventions for the management of dyslipidemia (altered triglycerides and cholesterol).”

And, “for an optimal cholesterol-lowering efficacy they should be consumed with a (main) meal such as a heavy breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and ideally twice daily.”

Check with your physician first before experimenting.