Recently, it has been questioned whether elevated levels of circulating plant sterols increase the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). To date, no definitive conclusions regarding such a relationship have been reached, nor have there been any studies summarizing the factors that contribute to the observed elevations in plant sterol concentrations in plasma. Thus, the purpose of this review is to systematically compare the plant sterol levels of subjects from the general population and to describe factors that contribute to the variations observed. The question of whether elevated plasma concentrations of plant sterols are associated with an increased risk of CHD was also assessed. Results indicate that the key factors accounting for variations in circulating plant sterol concentrations include: apolipoprotein E phenotypes, ATP-binding cassette transporter polymorphisms, use of statin drugs, presence of metabolic syndrome, dietary intake of plant sterols, gender, and analytical techniques used in the measurement of plant sterols in the plasma. An analysis of the studies examining the relationship between circulating levels of plant sterols and CHD risk in non-sitosterolemic populations revealed no clear associations. Furthermore, it was shown that the above-mentioned factors play an important role in determining the levels of plant sterols in plasma. Since these factors may act as potential confounders, they must be controlled for before more solid conclusions can be reached.
Chan, Y. M., Varady, K. A., Lin, Y., Trautwein, E., Mensink, R. P., Plat, J., & Jones, P. J. (2006). Plasma concentrations of plant sterols: physiology and relationship with coronary heart disease. Nutrition Reviews, 64(9), 385-402. https://doi.org/10.1301/nr.2006.sept.385-402