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Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Jul;92(1):41-6. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.29073. Epub 2010 May 5.

High basal fractional cholesterol synthesis is associated with nonresponse of plasma LDL cholesterol to plant sterol therapy.

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Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals, Winnipeg, Canada.



The cholesterol-lowering effectiveness of plant sterol (PS) therapy is hindered by wide-ranging variability in LDL-cholesterol responsiveness across individuals. To capitalize on the LDL-cholesterol-lowering potential of PS in the clinical setting, it is paramount to characterize the metabolic factors that underlie this heterogeneity of responsiveness.


The objective was to investigate the relation between cholesterol synthesis and plasma LDL-cholesterol reductions in response to PS consumption.


We evaluated previously conducted clinical PS interventions incorporating stable-isotope measures of cholesterol synthesis and conducted feeding studies in animal models of response (Syrian Golden hamsters) and nonresponse (C57BL/6J mice) to PS consumption.


From our clinical study population (n = 113), we identified 47 nonresponders (3.73 +/- 1.10% change in LDL cholesterol) and 66 responders (-15.16 +/- 1.04% change in LDL cholesterol) to PS therapy. The basal cholesterol fractional synthesis rate (FSR) as measured by direct deuterium incorporation was 23% higher (P = 0.003) in the nonresponder subgroup than in responders to PS therapy. The basal cholesterol FSR correlated (r = 0.22, P = 0.02) with the percentage change in LDL cholesterol after PS intervention. In support of our clinical observations, nonresponding mice showed a 77% higher (P = 0.001) basal cholesterol FSR than that of responding hamsters. Compared with control mice, PS-fed mice showed an increase in hepatic nuclear sterol regulatory element binding protein 2 abundance (1.3-fold of control, P = 0.04) and beta-hydroxy-beta-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase-mRNA expression (2.4-fold of control, P = 0.00).


The results suggest that subjects with high basal cholesterol synthesis are less responsive to PS treatment than are subjects with low basal cholesterol synthesis.

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