Metabolic effects of plant sterols and stanols (Review)

N.A. de Jong, J. Plat, R.P. Mensink*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Metabolic effects of plant sterols and stanols (Review).

de Jong A, Plat J, Mensink RP.

Department of Human Biology, University of Maastricht, The Netherlands.

High serum LDL cholesterol concentration is a major risk factor for cardiovascular complications. This risk can be lowered by diet. In this respect foods containing plant sterol or stanol esters can be useful for mildly- and hypercholesteraemic subjects. Plant sterols and stanols, which are structurally related to cholesterol, decrease the incorporation of dietary and biliary cholesterol into micelles. This lowers cholesterol absorption. Furthermore, these components increase ABC-transporter expression, which may also contribute to the decreased cholesterol absorption. Consequently, cholesterol synthesis and LDL receptor activity increase, which ultimately leads to decreased serum LDL cholesterol concentrations. Animal studies have further shown that these dietary components may also lower atherosclerotic lesion development. Plant sterols and stanols also lower plasma lipid-standardized concentrations of the hydrocarbon carotenoids, but not those of the oxygenated cartenoids and tocopherols. Also, vitamin A and D concentrations are not affected. Although absorption of plant sterols and stanols (0.02-3.5%) is low compared to cholesterol (35-70%), small amounts are found in the circulation and may influence other physiological functions. However, there is no consistent evidence that plant sterols or stanols can change the risk of colon or prostate cancer, or immune status. In conclusion, plant sterols and stanols effectively reduce serum LDL cholesterol and atherosclerotic risk. In addition potential effects of plant sterols and stanols on other metabolic processes remain to be elucidated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)362-369
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Nutritional Biochemistry
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2003

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