An acute intake of plant stanol esters alters immune-related pathways in the jejunum of healthy volunteers

Els De Smet, Ronald P. Mensink, Mark V. Boekschoten, Rogier de Ridder, Wilfred T. V. Germeraad, Tim G. A. M. Wolfs, Jogchum Plat*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Plant sterols and stanols inhibit intestinal cholesterol absorption and consequently lower serum LDL-cholesterol (LDL-C) concentrations. The underlying mechanisms are not yet known. In vitro and animal studies have suggested that changes in intestinal sterol metabolism are attributed to the LDL-C-lowering effects of plant stanol esters. However, similar studies in human subjects are lacking. Therefore, we examined the effects of an acute intake of plant stanol esters on gene expression profiles of the upper small intestine in healthy volunteers. In a double-blind cross-over design, fourteen healthy subjects (eight female and six male; age 21-55 years), with a BMI ranging from 21 to 29 kg/m2, received in random order a shake with or without plant stanol esters (4 g). At 5 h after consumption of the shake, biopsies were taken from the duodenum (around the papilla of Vater) and from the jejunum (20 cm distal from the papilla of Vater). Microarray analysis showed that the expression profiles of genes involved in sterol metabolism were not altered. Surprisingly, the pathways involved in T-cell functions were down-regulated in the jejunum. Furthermore, immunohistochemical analysis showed that the number of CD3 (cluster of differentiation number 3), CD4 (cluster of differentiation number 4) and Foxp3+ (forkhead box P3-positive) cells was reduced in the plant stanol ester condition compared with the control condition, which is in line with the microarray data. The physiological and functional consequences of the plant stanol ester-induced reduction of intestinal T-cell-based immune activity in healthy subjects deserve further investigation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)794-802
JournalBritish Journal of Nutrition
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 14 Mar 2015


  • Immune function
  • Intestinal gene expression profiles
  • Microarray analysis
  • Plant stanol esters


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