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Complement Ther Med. 2011 Feb;19(1):37-46. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2010.12.004. Epub 2011 Jan 16.

Lowering LDL cholesterol with margarine containing plant stanol/sterol esters: is it still relevant in 2011?

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Discipline of Medical Sciences, Faculty of Science and Technology, Queensland University of Technology, Gardens Point, GPO Box 2434, Brisbane, QLD 4001, Australia.


Recommendations about the use of plant stanol/sterol esters have not been updated since 2001. There have been many developments in medicines for lipid-lowering since 2001. In this review, the use of margarines containing stanol or sterol esters, to lower LDL cholesterol is considered in the 2011 setting. Firstly, there is a brief overview of the effects of the stanols/sterols on LDL cholesterol, which shows that these agents have a modest ability to lower LDL cholesterol, and are not effective in all conditions. Secondly, the relevance of the stanols/sterols in 2010/1 is questioned, given they have not been shown to reduce clinical endpoints, and have no effects on HDL cholesterol or triglyceride levels. Finally, there is a section comparing the stanols/sterols with the present day prescription lipid lowering medicines. Prescription drugs (statins, ezetimibe, and niacin) have a much greater ability to lower LDL cholesterol than the stanol/sterol esters, and also increase levels of HDL cholesterol and decrease levels of triglycerides. The statins and niacin have been shown to reduce cardiovascular clinical endpoints. Except in borderline normo/hypercholesterolemia, prescription drugs should be preferred to stanol/sterol esters for lowering LDL cholesterol in 2011.

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