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Diseases & Conditions

Plant Sterols and Stanols

What are plant sterols and stanols?

Plant sterols and stanols are naturally occurring substances found in plants. They are present in small quantities in many fruits, vegetables, vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, cereals and legumes.

Why are plant sterols and stanols important?

Research has shown that plant sterols/stanols included with a heart healthy eating plan may reduce your risk for heart disease. The sterols/stanols work by blocking the absorption of cholesterol in the small intestine. This lowers the low density cholesterol known as the 'bad' cholesterol (LDL ) by 6-15%, without lowering the good cholesterol known as the high density cholesterol ( HDL). Clinical research trials have documented safety and effectiveness for use by the entire family. Plant stanols/sterols do not interfere with cholesterol lowering medications.

The National Cholesterol Education/Adult Treatment III program guidelines recommend plant sterols/plant stanols as part of a heart healthy eating plan. Eating a heart healthy low fat diet that include eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grain foods, plant sterols/stanols, plus regular physical activity help reduce the risk of heart disease. The Food & Drug Administration approved the health claim regarding the role of plant sterols esters in reducing risk of heart disease.

Effectiveness has been shown with dosages of 2 to 3 grams plant stanols per day. The food industry has produced plant sterol/stanol enriched margarines to meet this higher intake needed for beneficial effects. Other products may be seen on the food market in the future.

Regular and light margarines are available, both with only trace amounts of trans fatty acids. In order to achieve the needed 2 grams or more of plant stanols per day, a serving size of 2 to 4 tablespoons per day is needed.

It is important that you eat a variety of foods to get all the nutrients you need. Use the Food Guide Pyramid as an example of the number of servings you should eat from each food group every day. If weight loss is desired, aim to select the lower number of recommended servings, but remember to select from all food groups daily.

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 7/15/2009...#10841