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Are Plant Sterols Good for Lowering Cholesterol? Chart, Side Effects

Are plant sterols good for lowering cholesterol?
Plant sterols or phytosterols are found naturally in vegetable oils and several fruits.

Plant sterols were initially discovered to have cholesterol-lowering properties in the 1950s when they were extracted from vegetable fats or oils and pine trees and tested for efficacy. 

  • Plant sterols are preferentially absorbed by the intestines in place of cholesterol, decreasing cholesterol levels in the body.
  • The mechanism is not clearly understood; however, it is believed that, because plant sterols are structurally similar to cholesterol, so they interfere with intestinal absorption of cholesterol.

According to research, plant sterol-enriched diets, when combined with statins, have an even higher influence on decreasing “bad” or low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels. Higher levels of blood LDL cholesterol levels are noted to increase the risk of coronary heart disease.

What are plant sterols?

Plant sterols or phytosterols are found naturally in vegetable oils and several fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and grains. Sterols are essential components of plant cell membranes.

More than 200 sterols and stanols have been identified among which the most common are:

  • Beta-sitosterol
  • Stigmasterol
  • Campesterol

Plant sterol content chart

Table. Phytosterol content per food variety Food Serving Phytosterols (mg)

Soybeans, mature seeds, raw
½ cup

Peas, green, mature seeds, raw
½ cup

Sesame oil
1 tablespoon (14 grams)

Kidney beans, mature seeds, raw
½ cup

Pistachio nuts
1 ounce (49 kernels)

Safflower oil
1 tablespoon (14 grams)

Lentils, pink or red, mature seeds, raw
½ cup

Cashew nuts
1 ounce

Soybeans, green, cooked, boiled
½ cup

Cottonseed oil
1 tablespoon (14 grams)

Orange, raw
1 fruit

Macadamia nuts
1 ounce (10 to 12 kernels)

Almonds, blanched
1 ounce

Olive oil
1 tablespoon (14 grams)

Banana, raw
1 large

Brussels sprouts, raw
1 cup

It is recommended to eat two to three grams of plant sterols per day from plant sterol-enriched foods to decrease low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Consuming more than this quantity will mostly cause no harm but will not provide you with any additional advantages.


What is cholesterol?
See Answer

How effective are plant sterols in lowering cholesterol?

Sterol-rich vegetables will reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, especially if you have high levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. People who have familial hypercholesterolemia or diabetes should eat meals high in plant sterols.

You may not get the required number of sterols through diet, so sterol supplements are given along with other cholesterol-lowering drugs. However, you should not substitute cholesterol-lowering medications with plant sterols, so continue to take cholesterol-lowering medication if you do so.

Most studies regarding plant sterol are underway (began less than a year back). No trials have shown therapeutic advantages of plant sterols, such as decreasing heart attacks and strokes or avoiding mortality, when compared to standard medical treatment to lower cholesterol levels.

What are the possible side effects of plant sterols?

According to current research, phytosterol supplements are reasonably safe and well-tolerated. The side effects caused by plant sterols will go away on their own as your body adjusts to the supplement.

Most of the side effects of plant sterols are mild and may include:

Higher phytosterol dosages are linked to a higher risk of adverse effects. Lowering the dosage typically alleviates the undesirable effects.

Contraindication of plant sterols

Plant sterols are contraindicated in the following conditions:

  • Phytosterolemia: A rare genetic disorder where there is an excessive buildup of fat in blood and tissues.
  • Contraindicated in children: Phytosterol is administered to children only if they are diagnosed with familial hypercholesterolemia.
  • Pregnancy
  • Breastfeeding

Plant sterol supplements are available in pill and gelcap forms online and over-the-counter. They should be taken before your main meal of the day or in lesser dosages before each meal. They should only be taken on the advice of your doctor.

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