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Curr Med Chem. 2018 Jul 8. doi: 10.2174/0929867325666180709114524. [Epub ahead of print]

Use of plant sterol and stanol fortified foods in clinical practice.

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Lipid Clinic, Endocrinology and Nutrition Service, Institut d'Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi Sunyer (IDIBAPS), Hospital Clínic Barcelona. Spain.


Plant sterols and stanols (PS) are natural, non-nutritive molecules that play a structural role in plant membranes similar to that of cholesterol in animal membranes and abound in seeds and derived oils. PS exert their physical effect of interference with micellar solubilization of cholesterol within the intestinal lumen and are marginally absorbed by enterocytes, with negiglible increases in circulating levels. The physiological role of PS in plants and their natural origin and non-systemic action, together with their cholesterol-lowering effect, make them an attractive option as non-pharmacological agents for the management of hypercholesterolemia. Recent meta-analyses have summarized the results of >100 controlled clinical trials and have firmly established that consumption of PS-supplemented foods in different formats at doses of 2-3 g per day results in LDL-cholesterol reductions of 9-12%. PS are both effective and safe cholesterol-lowering agents and have many clinical applications: adjuncts to a healthy diet, treatment of common hypercholesterolemia, combination therapy with statins and other lipid-lowering drugs, and treatment of metabolic syndrome and diabetes. The cholesterol-lowering efficacy is similar in all clinical situations. PS are also useful agents for treatment of hypercholesterolemic children who are not yet candidates to statins or are receive low-doses of these agents. In the setting of statin treatment, the average LDL-cholesterol reduction obtained with PS is equivalent to up- titrating twice the statin dose. However, information is still scarce on the efficacy of PS as add-on therapy to ezetimibe, fibrates, omega-3 fatty acids, or bile acid binding resins. The consistent scientific evidence on the cholesterol-lowering efficacy and safety of functional foods supplemented with PS has led several national and international scientific societies to endorse their use for the non-pharmacologic treatment of hypercholesterolemia as adjuncts to a healthy diet. There is, however, a lack of clinical trials of PS with outcomes on cardiovascular events.


blood cholesterol; cardiovascular risk; cholesterol absorption; plant stanols; plant sterols

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