Customary Use of Plant Sterol and Plant Stanol Enriched Margarine Is Associated with Changes in Serum Plant Sterol and Stanol Concentrations in Humans

H.P. Fransen, N.A. de Jong*, M.C.J. Wolfs, H. Verhagen, W.M. Verschuren, D. Lutjohann, K. von Bergmann, J. Plat, R.P. Mensink

*Corresponding author for this work

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The consumption of products enriched with plant sterol or stanol esters lowers serum total and LDL-cholesterol concentrations, thereby most likely reducing the risk of coronary heart disease. However, using plant sterol (not plant stanol) enriched products elevates serum plant sterol concentrations in humans. This may be unwanted because health effects of elevated serum plant sterol concentrations are still controversial. Within postlaunch monitoring of functional foods, we compared serum plant sterol and plant stanol concentrations among users of plant sterol (n = 67) or plant stanol (n = 13) enriched margarines with those of matched nonusers (n = 81) in the ongoing Dutch Doetinchem cohort study. Subjects (aged 29-67 y) were examined in 1994-1998 (before the introduction of enriched margarines) and re-examined in 1999-2003. Serum concentrations of plant sterols and stanols were measured in samples from nonfasting subjects by GLC-MS. Intake of plant sterols was 1.1 +/- 0.6 g/d and was associated with a decrease of serum total cholesterol concentration of 0.25 +/- 0.91 mmol/L (4%, P < 0.05), a change that differed (P < 0.05) from the nonsignificant increase in nonusers (+2%, 0.12 +/- 0.78 mmol/L, P = 0.16). Cholesterol-standardized serum sitosterol and campesterol increased in plant sterol users by 22% (P < 0.0001) and 103% (P < 0.0001), respectively. Cholesterol-standardized serum sitostanol and campestanol increased in plant stanol users by 197% (P = 0.02) and 196% (P = 0.01). To our knowledge, these data are the first to show changes in serum cholesterol, plant sterol, and plant stanol concentrations after (long-term) consumption of plant sterol and stanol enriched margarines in a free-living population in a nonexperimental setting. Whether the increased serum sterol concentrations result in adverse side effects needs to be investigated in future postlaunch monitoring studies. AD - National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), 3720 BA Bilthoven, the Netherlands; 4Department of Clinical Pharmacology, University of Bonn, 53105 Bonn, Germany 5Maastricht University, Department of Human Biology, 6229 ER Maastricht, the Netherlands.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1301-1306
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2007

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