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Pharmacol Res. 2010 Mar;61(3):193-9. doi: 10.1016/j.phrs.2010.01.001. Epub 2010 Jan 11.

Phytosterols and cardiovascular health.

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Nutrition Foundation of Italy, Viale Tunisia 38, 20124 Milano, Italy.


Phytosterols are typical constituents of plants' cell walls. When ingested with plant foods, they reduce cholesterol absorption from the gut, due to their structural similarity with cholesterol. In the last decades, purified plant sterols or stanols have been added to various foods items to obtain functional foods with remarkable hypocholesterolemic activity. A daily intake of plant sterols or stanols of 1.6-2g/day, incorporated in these foods, is able to reduce cholesterol absorption from the gut by about 30%, and plasma LDL cholesterol levels by 8-10%. Since the action of plant sterols or stanols on plasma LDL cholesterol is additive to that of statins, the former can be used to increase the latter's hypocholesterolemic action in patients needing a marked reduction in plasma LDL cholesterol levels. Phytosterols, up to 3g/day, are safe and effective cholesterol-lowering agents.

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