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Metabolism. 1998 Jun;47(6):744-50.

Fat-modified diets influence serum concentrations of cholesterol precursors and plant sterols in hypercholesterolemic subjects.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Nutrition, University of Kuopio, Finland.


Serum noncholesterol sterols, cholesterol precursors and plant sterols, are indicators of cholesterol absorption and synthesis. Serum plant sterol concentrations correlate positively with cholesterol absorption, but have also been found to correlate with dietary unsaturated to saturated fatty acid ratios. We studied the concentration of serum noncholesterol sterols during four different fat-modified diets, (1) high-fat, saturated fat-enriched (control), (2) reduced-fat, sunflower oil-enriched (SO-enriched), (3) rapeseed oil-enriched (RO-enriched), and (4) reduced-fat, saturated fat-enriched (reduced-fat), followed for 6 months in hypercholesterolemic subjects in a parallel design. The proportion of lathosterol (micrograms per 100 mg cholesterol), a precursor of cholesterol synthesis, increased significantly (P < .05) in both SO-enriched (mean +/- SD 147 +/- 57 v 167 +/- 76, 0 v 6 months) and RO-enriched (147 +/- 54 v 157 +/- 52) groups, where the reduction in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol was also significant. The proportion of sitosterol, a plant sterol, decreased significantly in the control group (137 +/- 48 v 122 +/- 42), and the proportion of another plant sterol, campesterol, increased in the RO-enriched group (280 +/- 141 v 333 +/- 162), reflecting changes in the use of vegetable oils in these two groups rather than increased cholesterol absorption. In the whole study population, the proportion of linoleic and alpha-linolenic acid (a marker of the use of RO) in cholesterol esters (CEs) correlated (P < .001) with the proportion of sitosterol (r = .43) and campesterol (r = .36) in serum at the end of the study. In conclusion, serum cholesterol precursors were found to be useful indicators of cholesterol metabolism, but changes in serum plant sterols reflected dietary changes rather than cholesterol metabolism during long-term dietary intervention with fat-modified diets.

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