Phytosterols and human lipid metabolism:
efficacy, safety, and novel foods

St-Onge MP, Jones PJ.
School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition,
McGill University,
Quebec, Canada H9X 3V9.
Lipids. 2003 Apr;38(4):367-75


Plant sterols have been known for several decades to cause reductions in plasma cholesterol concentrations. These plant materials have been granted a conditional health claim in the United States regarding their effects in the prevention of cardiovascular disease and are being sold in functional foods in several countries in Europe as well as in the United States and Australia. It is generally suggested that daily consumption of approximately 2 g of plant sterols can lower cholesterol concentrations as part of a dietary prevention strategy. However, phytosterols have been added and tested for their cholesterol-lowering effects mainly in spreads. Consumption of these high-fat foods seemingly flies in the face of current recommendations for the promotion of heart health, which suggest lowering total fat and energy intake to maintain weight. Hence, new food formulations are being evaluated using phytosterols incorporated into low-fat and reduced-fat food items. The purpose of this review is to examine the cholesterol-lowering efficacy of plant sterols, focusing on novel food applications, their mechanism of action, and safety. These novel food formulations include new solubilization processes that lead to improved uses for plant sterols, as well as new foods into which phytosterols have been incorporated, such as breads, cereals, and beef. Such new foods and formulations should pave the way for greater use of phytosterols in heart health promotion, increasing the longer-term potential for the creation of innovative functional foods containing plant sterols and their derivatives.
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