Prevent Heart Disease
Lower High Cholesterol
Reduce Risk of Coronary Heart Disease
Lower C-reactive Protein Levels
Ease Enlarged Prostate
Calm Inflammation in Rheumatoid Arthritis
Control Blood Sugar

What Is It?

Plant sterols and plant stanols are collectively known as phytosterols. Plant sterols are plant compounds with chemical structures similar to that of cholesterol. Especially high sterol levels are found in rice bran, wheat germ, corn oils, and soybeans. In a more concentrated form, these substances are called plant stanols. However, unlike cholesterol derived from animal sources--which absorbs easily and raises the body's own cholesterol levels--phytosterols are present only at very low levels in the body because they are difficult to absorb.

Interestingly, phytosterols so closely resemble cholesterol that they can actually block food-based cholesterol from being absorbed into the bloodstream. The result is that both phytosterols and dietary cholesterol end up excreted in waste matter.

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Health Benefits

Prevent heart disease and lower total and LDL cholesterol

By lowering total and LDL cholesterol levels, plant sterols and stanols may reduce your risk of heart disease. Studies have shown that daily ingestion of phytosterols can lower these cholesterol measurements by an average of 10% to 14%. Because of these strong findings, the National Cholesterol Education Panel issued a new recommendation in 2001 that plant stanols and sterols be added to cholesterol-lowering regimens, along with the more traditional cholesterol-fighting tools, such as regular exercise, weight loss, and a low-fat diet.

Recent study results find that supplementing your diet with phytosterols may be nearly as effective as lipid lowering statin drugs. In fact the same trial demonstrated that nine out of thirty-four participants were able to achieve lower LDL levels by implementing a diet high in plant sterols, than by taking statin drugs. The mechanism behind the improvement in LDL levels is not fully understood, but study results now suggest that phytosterols may lower the LDL particle size. There is debate about whether the sterol or stanol particles are more effective at lowering cholesterol. What we do know however, is that smaller LDL particles area more easily excreted by the body resulting in lower risk of adverse cardiac events and disease.

Numerous clinical trials have found that daily consumption of foods enriched with plant sterols or stanols in free or esterified forms lowers serum total and LDL cholesterol concentrations. A meta-analysis that combined the results of 18 controlled clinical trials found that the consumption of spreads providing an average of 2 g/d of plant sterols or stanols lowered serum LDL cholesterol concentrations by 9-14%. More recently, a meta-analysis that combined the results of 23 controlled clinical trials found that the consumption of plant foods providing an average of 3.4 g/d of plant sterols or stanols decreased LDL cholesterol concentrations by about 11%. The most extensive meta-analysis published to date analyzed the results of 23 clinical trials of plant sterol-enriched foods and 27 clinical trials of plant stanol-enriched foods separately. At doses of at least 2 g/d, both plant sterols and stanols decreased LDL cholesterol concentrations by about 10%. Doses higher than 2 g/d did not substantially improve the cholesterol-lowering effects of plant sterols or stanols.

Linus Pauling Institute

The amount of cholesterol absorbed and type that circulates in the body has implications for cardiovascular health. Cholesterol travels in the blood through "lipoproteins," distinct particles containing both lipids and protein. These include high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol - sometimes referred to as "good" and "bad" cholesterol, respectively. Excess cholesterol in the blood - particularly LDL cholesterol may increase the risk of developing coronary heart disease.   High  levels of LDL cholesterol may contribute to fatty buildup on artery walls, forming plaque deposits that narrow the arteries. Plaque restricts blood flow and can raise blood pressure. When unstable plaques rupture, they tend to form clots, which may lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Plant phytosterols may help lower LDL cholesterol levels by blocking its absorption. If enough sterols/stanols are consumed in the diet, they will compete with cholesterol in the digestive tract in the formation of "mixed micelles." This ultimately results in a reduction of the amount of cholesterol that is absorbed in the body and returned to the liver. Despite the ability of plant sterols/stanols to block cholesterol absorption, the human intestine poorly absorbs them. In addition to the "mixed micelle" mechanism, special proteins lining the small intestine called "ATP cassette transporters" also play a role in lowering cholesterol by pumping absorbed plant sterols back into the gut.

Clinical Studies

  • In a meta-analysis of randomized controlled intervention trials that involved persons with a family history of hypercholesterolemia, consuming spreads fortified with 1.8 to 2.8 grams of sterols/stanols per day over a period of four weeks to three months significantly lowered total cholesterol by seven to 11 percent.

  • A randomized, double-blind clinical trial conducted with mildly hypercholesterolemic individuals demonstrated that consuming sterol-fortified orange juice lowered LDL cholesterol levels by about 12.4 percent over a two-month period.

  • Persons with moderate hypercholesterolemia had lowered their LDL cholesterol levels by five to six percent after consuming sterol-/stanol-fortified yogurt for three weeks. 

  • At intakes of 2 to 2.5 grams sterols/stanols per day, other studies have shown a 10 to 14 percent reduction in LDL cholesterol without side effects.

    Patients on statin drug therapy may achieve further reductions in their blood cholesterol levels when consuming a plant sterol-/stanol-rich diet. A 10 to 15 percent reduction in LDL cholesterol levels has been seen in some studies for patients who combined statins with a higher intake of plant sterols.

  • Adding sterols/stanols to the diet appears to be somewhat more effective than doubling the statin dose, which usually produces an additional lowering of LDL cholesterol levels by only five to seven percent.

  • A review suggested that long-term use of sterol-/stanol-containing products resulted in a 20 percent reduction in the incidence of coronary heart disease.

    International Food Information Council

    Coronary Heart Disease Risk

    The results of numerous intervention trials suggest that a 10% reduction in LDL cholesterol induced by medication or diet modification could decrease the risk of coronary heart disease by as much as 20%. The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Adult Treatment Panel III has included the use of plant sterol or stanol esters (2 g/d) as a component of maximal dietary therapy for elevated LDL cholesterol. The addition of plant sterol or stanol-enriched foods to a heart healthy diet that is low in saturated fat and rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains and fiber offers the potential for additive effects in coronary heart disease risk reduction. Recently, a diet that provided a portfolio of cholesterol-lowering foods, including plant sterols, soy protein, almonds and viscous fibers lowered serum LDL cholesterol concentrations by an average of 30%, a decrease that was not significantly different from that induced by statin therapy. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized the use of health claims on food labels indicating that regular consumption of foods enriched with plant sterol or stanol esters may reduce the risk of heart disease.

    Linus Pauling Institute

    Lower C-reactive Protein Levels

    C-reactive protein (CRP) is a special type of protein whose levels are increased in the blood in response to inflammation. People who smoke, have high blood pressure, are overweight, or have sedentary lifestyles often have elevated CRP, whereas lean, active people usually have lower levels. Like high serum cholesterol, high levels of C-reactive protein carry an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Diets high in soluble fiber can help reduce CRP and thus lower the risk of heart disease.

    One review article noted a 28% reduction in CRP levels when volunteers consumed a whole-foods diet rich in soluble fiber. In another trial, 55 healthy adults were assigned one of three diets: a diet low in saturated fat; the same diet plus a cholesterol-lowering statin drug; or the same diet plus increased amounts of plant sterols, viscous fiber, soy protein, and nuts. After one month, serum C-reactive protein levels fell in all three groups. In the low-fat diet group, CRP dropped 10%, a difference not considered statistically significant. However, those who consumed a low-fat diet enriched with plant sterols and fibers achieved a statistically significant 28% reduction in CRP—nearly equaling the 33% drop seen in those taking a powerful statin drug.

    Life Extension

    Ease enlarged prostate

    Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is the term used to describe a noncancerous enlargement of the prostate. The enlarged prostate may exert pressure on the urethra, resulting in difficulty urinating. Plant extracts that provide a mixture of phytosterols (marketed as beta-sitosterol) are often included in herbal therapies for urinary symptoms related to BPH. However, relatively few controlled studies have examined the efficacy of phytosterol supplements in men with symptomatic BPH. In a six-month study of 200 men with symptomatic BPH, 60 mg/d of a beta-sitosterol preparation improved symptom scores, increased peak urinary flow and decreased post-void residual urine volume compared to placebo. A follow-up study reported that these improvements were maintained for up to18 months in the 38 participants who continued beta-sitosterol treatment after the study ended. Similarly, in a six-month study of 177 men with symptomatic BPH, 130 mg/d of a different beta-sitosterol preparation improved urinary symptom scores, increased peak flow and decreased post-void residual volume compared to placebo. A systematic review that combined the results of those and two other controlled clinical trials found that beta-sitosterol extracts increased peak urinary flow by an average of 3.9 ml/second and decreased post-void residual volume by an average of 29 ml.

    Linus Pauling Institute

    Calm inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis (RA)

    Most traditional treatments for RA involve drugs that suppress the body's immune response, which can often cause troubling side effects. A mixture of the phytosterols beta-sitosterol and beta-sistosterolin has shown promise in helping to decrease inflammation and calm the overactive immune response that characterizes RA and other autoimmune diseases. More research is needed, however.

    Control blood sugar in diabetes

    Some phytosterols stimulate insulin secretion and may contribute to better blood sugar control, a problem in people with diabetes. Animal studies have suggested that beta-sitosterol and beta-sistosterolin might be beneficial for people with diabetic and pre-diabetic conditions. More research is necessary before these findings are recommended to people with diabetes.

    Beta-sitosterol has been shown to normalize blood sugar and insulin levels in Type II diabetics by stimulating the release of insulin in the presence of non-stimulatory glucose concentrations, and inhibiting glucose-6-phosphatase.

    In the liver, the enzyme glucose-6-phosphatase is the primary pathway for conversion of dietary carbohydrates to blood sugar. Glucose-6-phosphatase dephosphorylates glucose-6-phosphate to yield free D-glucose. Free D-glucose passes into the blood, thus elevating blood sugar levels.

    Reducing the blood glucose levels by down-regulation of glucose-6-phosphatase helps delay diabetes caused by old age.


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    Recommended Intake

    Phytosterols are available in the form of fatty acid esters in some functional food products, including margarines, spreads and salad dressing. Unesterified phytosterols are available in capsules. Doses of the phytosterol esters range from 1.12 to 2.24 grams daily in combination with food sources.

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    Contraindications for phytosterol supplementation include those with the rare genetic disorder cerebrotendinotic xanthomatosis and pregnant and nursing women.

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    What Users Of These Ingredients Say...

    My husband and I wanted to let you know what our experience with these ingredients has been, even at this early stage. This Wednesday marks 4 weeks on the drink.

    Daniel is 42. His health is good except for the high blood pressure. He's been on Lisinopril and Indapam for about two years. He became a living zombie. It was a struggle for him some days to get the dishes washed and unload the dishwasher. He had almost every side effect listed for these drugs. In looking back, we realized that he is someone that is extremely sensitive to medicine and responds very quickly to them (either way).

    We received the shipment on Wednesday, March 16th, and he began taking it.
    His energy began coming back the following Monday, and has remained (and gotten better).

    On Friday, April 1 he had to
    stop taking the diuretic medicine because his blood pressure was dropping too low. Once this diuretic was stopped, everything leveled out within the target range.

    He began having another symptom of skin rash/eczema and I got on the Internet to find out more about ACE inhibitors. Once we found out it was based on the venom of a Brazilian pit viper snake, the symptoms he's been experiencing were completely understandable.

    He's now cut his ACE inhibitor in half, and is still in the target range on the blood pressure. We feel like that with a bit more time on the formula, he will be off of these medicines.

    These ingredients have given me my husband back.

    Thank you so much!

    Best regards,
    Ann and Dan R .

    I am 45 years old and have been diagnosed with having high blood pressure (150 over 93). Because of my medical plan changing I have seen several different doctors, over a 2 year period, all are family practitioners. Each doctor prescribed different blood pressure medicine which I took and followed there direction. I saw no difference in my blood pressure. My biggest problem was with the side effects of each drug.

    Then my life changed when I started taking these ingredients. I have seen my blood pressure drop to 125 over 79 in 2.5 months. I no longer take blood pressure prescription medication and my doctor considers my blood pressure to be normal, I agree. Thank you.

    Brent M.

    My mom died of a stroke at age fifty... My oldest brother died of a congenital heart problem at football practice at 16. My dad died at seventy of heart problems after suffering with bad circulation that limited, for many years, his ability to walk.

    At age sixty I am 5' 9" and 163 lbs. I had been working out at a gym for six months and had all but eliminated alcohol. At an annual physical in early March, I was disappointed to learn that my blood pressure, for which I had been taking metoprolol, was 168/98.My doctor, an internal medicine guy who was tired of seeing his patients going down with heart attacks and strokes, made it clear that he viewed me as a "walking time bomb." Given the family history that I have to work with, it was impossible to argue and I put up only modest resistance when he prescribed Lipitor. Soon after I began taking these ingredients my daily readings began to go steadily down and the most recent lab results show:

    LDL at 72 or one half of what it was a month ago

    HDL 49, up 6 from a month ago

    Triglycerides 82, down from 102

    Blood pressure at 123/68.

    My doctor was delighted. Me too. If the trend continues, he has promised to review the need for Lipitor and maybe even metoprolol. I will be one happy man to see those things go.


    I have been using these ingredients for 2 1/2 months and my blood pressure has dropped from about 180/100 to an
    average of 125/80. This decrease occurred without other medication. My doctor wanted to put me on an ace-inhibitor medication but I decided to take these ingredients instead. I'm glad I did.

    J Patterson

    In December 2005, during a physical my blood pressure was 149/95. My cholesterol was 267. I was headed for a stroke. My wife's physician had suggested liquid arginine for high blood pressure and she found these ingredients on the internet.

    My blood pressure is now a perfect 120/80 and my cholesterol is down to 222 so far. My doctor is so pleased that he decided to keep me OFF the medications.


    My 81 year old mom got her 6 month check up from her doctor today and her blood pressure was 120 over 75, and he said whatever you are doing keep doing it. I asked her did you tell him about the ingredients you are taking. She said nope, she was afraid to, afraid that he would get mad at her….isn’t that something.
    Well let me back up a little. Back in late October of 2006 my mom was very sick. She could barely stand up without passing out and you could forget going up stairs. We took her to her doctor and he had an ambulance take her right to the hospital with a blood pressure approaching 200 over 120+. So they did the little trick where they go up the leg and found her to be 90% blocked all over. They discussed open heart surgery but were concerned because the veins they would use in her legs were too small. Well she said no, she wanted to wait until after Christmas (in case it was her last) so she could spend it with her grand kids. That is when I put her on these ingredients.
    Well the doctor’s office called her in January and told her she needed to get the angioplasty done. She said no I feel a whole lot better now with my blood pressure down to around the 140 over 80s range. So they talked her into going back up the leg to take a another look and this time at the very most she was only 40% blocked just in one spot, so they put in a stint (which I don’t think was necessary).
    Well I just wanted to say thanks for adding a few more years to my mom’s life! I kind of like having her around.

    The information herein is not intended to replace the medical advice of your physician. You are advised to consult with your physician with regards to matters relating to your health, and in particular regarding matters that may require diagnosis or medical attention. DO NOT stop taking medications without first consulting with your physician. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.

    Every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided herein is accurate, up-to-date, and complete, but no guarantee is made to that effect. This information has been compiled for use by healthcare practitioners and consumers in the United States. does not endorse drugs, diagnose patients or recommend therapy. This informational resource is designed to assist licensed healthcare practitioners in caring for their patients and/or to serve consumers viewing this service as a supplement to, and not a substitute for, the expertise, skill, knowledge and judgment of healthcare practitioners. does not assume any responsibility for any aspect of healthcare administered with the aid of information compiles. The information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. If you have questions, check with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.