Plant-Based Supplements Appear to Reduce LDL Cholesterol

Daniel Weiss, Senior Editor
Published Online: Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Patients with high cholesterol who took tablets with plant sterols and stanols had reduced low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in a randomized crossover study.

Dietary supplements with plant sterols and stanols appear to reduce low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) in people with high cholesterol, according to the results of a study published online on July 16, 2012, in Nutrition.
 
The randomized crossover study included 32 participants who had high cholesterol, were aged 21 to 79 years, had a fasting LCL-C level between 3.4 and 5.7 mmol/L, and were in good general health. The participants were 59% female, 91% non-Hispanic white, and had an average age of 57.6 years and an average BMI of 27.4.
 
All participants followed a standardized diet for 5 weeks, followed by a single-blind placebo, and then by 2 double-blind 6-week treatment periods in which participants took either tablets containing 1.8 g of plant sterols and stanols or placebo tablets. (Those who received active tablets during the first treatment period switched to placebo tablets for the second period and vice versa.) Compliance was 98.0% with the active tablets and 98.4% with the placebo tablets.
 
The participants’ plasma liquid profile was measured at baseline (weeks -1 and 0) and for 2 weeks at the end of each treatment period (weeks 5, 6, 11, and 12). Compared with those taking control tablets, those taking active tablets had LDL-C that was reduced by 4.9%, non-high-density lipoprotein (HDL)-C reduced by 3.6%, and total cholesterol reduced by 2.8%. All these differences were significant. There were, however, no significant differences for HDL-C and triglyceride levels.
 
Those taking the active tablets increased their energy intake, and those taking the placebo tablets slightly decreased their energy intake, but the difference in energy intake was not significant. In addition, there were no significant differences in intake of carbohydrates, protein, total fat, saturated fat, dietary fiber, soluble fiber, or cholesterol associated with taking the active tablets compared with the placebo tablets.
 
Plant sterols and stanols are thought to lower cholesterol levels by blocking absorption of cholesterol in the small intestine. The researchers note that most previous studies have looked at the effect of plant sterols and stanols delivered via food rather than supplement tablets. They add that tablets or capsules are likely to be a more convenient delivery mechanism for patients, and that the supplements should be consumed with food to ensure that they work as intended.

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