How Plant Sterols Work to Lower Cholesterol – Things to Know

BY replenish-admin
Featured image for “How Plant Sterols Work to Lower Cholesterol – Things to Know”

How Plant Sterols Work to Lower Cholesterol – Things to Know

July 23, 2023


Plant sterols, also referred to as phytosterols, have been gaining increased recognition in recent years due to their potential capabilities in lowering cholesterol levels. Thus, they contribute to the enhancement of overall heart health.

In this comprehensive article, we aim to delve deeper into:

  • Exploring the myriad benefits associated with plant sterols
  • Elucidating their underlying mechanism of action
  • Providing guidance on their recommended daily intake

Furthermore, we will be discussing the specific demographics who might consider integrating these plant sterols into their lifestyle.

We understand the importance of addressing prevalent queries people have regarding plant sterols. Therefore, we will also tackle commonly asked questions. These include the effectiveness of plant sterols when compared to statins, a widely used class of drugs to lower cholesterol levels, and any potential side effects that may arise from the consumption of plant sterols.

Our objective is to provide you with a thorough understanding of plant sterols, grounded in current research and knowledge, so that you can make an informed decision about whether they should be included in your dietary regimen. We aim for clarity, relevance, and factual accuracy in our discussion, allowing you to glean the most value from our insights.

What Are Plant Sterols?

Plant sterols represent a group of naturally occurring compounds found abundantly in various plant-based foods. Their structural similarity to cholesterol plays a significant role in managing dietary cholesterol levels. When ingested, plant sterols enter into a competitive process with dietary cholesterol for absorption within the intestines. As a result of this competition, they inhibit the absorption of cholesterol, effectively contributing to a reduction in overall cholesterol levels within the body.

This function of plant sterols is especially crucial given the health implications associated with high cholesterol levels. According to the American Heart Association, elevated cholesterol levels can lead to the development of heart disease, one of the leading causes of death globally. By reducing cholesterol absorption, plant sterols can play a vital role in maintaining heart health and preventing related conditions.

The importance of plant sterols extends beyond individual health and well-being. They have a significant impact on societal health as well. The consumption of plant sterols as part of a balanced diet can contribute to a broader public health strategy aimed at reducing the prevalence of high cholesterol and associated health conditions.

Research data from the World Health Organization (WHO) indicate that high cholesterol levels are a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, causing about 2.6 million deaths annually. The regular inclusion of plant sterols in the diet could therefore potentially mitigate this public health issue.

Therefore, knowledge of plant sterols and their health benefits is not only useful for personal health management, but also instrumental in formulating effective public health strategies. It is a clear demonstration of how knowledge can foster both individual and societal growth. By understanding the importance of these naturally occurring compounds, one can make informed decisions that promote overall health, leading to a healthier and more prosperous society.

What Are the Types of Phytosterols?

Phytosterols, also known as plant sterols, come in several types, each with its distinct properties and sources. The most prevalent types include beta-sitosterol, campesterol, and stigmasterol.

plant sterols

Beta-sitosterol stands out as the most commonly occurring phytosterol. This compound is abundant in various plant-based foods, particularly in nuts and seeds. It plays a crucial role in diverting cholesterol away from the bloodstream, thus aiding in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels.

Campesterol, another prevalent type of phytosterol, is typically found in large quantities in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. It is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, which contribute to overall health and wellness.

Stigmasterol, while less common than the other two, is a vital phytosterol that comes predominantly from vegetable oils, nuts, and legumes. It is renowned for its potential in inhibiting the absorption of cholesterol in the intestines, thereby positively influencing heart health.

It’s important to note that these phytosterols are naturally occurring compounds found in a variety of everyday foods. Nuts, seeds, whole grains, and vegetable oils are excellent sources of these compounds, making them easily accessible for those looking to incorporate plant sterols into their diet.

What Are the Benefits of Plant Sterols (Phytosterols)?

The benefits of plant sterols, or phytosterols, are wide-ranging, with their potential to lower cholesterol levels standing out as the most significant advantage. They work by blocking the absorption of cholesterol in your digestive tract, which can lead to a decrease in the levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol—often referred to as the “bad” cholesterol—in your blood.

Research has shown that incorporating plant sterols into a balanced and healthy diet can lead to a reduction in LDL cholesterol levels by up to 10 percent. In one literature, it states the LDL reduction is from 8-10%. In other literature, the LDL reduction is from 5-15%. Nonetheless, this is a remarkable benefit, considering that each 1 percent drop in LDL cholesterol levels corresponds to a roughly 1 percent decrease in the risk of developing heart disease.

By directly influencing and lowering LDL cholesterol levels, plant sterols can contribute significantly to the reduction in the risk of heart disease and related complications such as stroke. This is particularly beneficial for individuals who are at an increased risk of these conditions due to factors such as age, family history, or pre-existing medical conditions.

Aside from their cholesterol-lowering properties, plant sterols also possess anti-inflammatory properties, which further contribute to cardiovascular health. Moreover, some research suggests that plant sterols may have anti-cancer properties, although more studies are needed to confirm these findings.

So, the inclusion of plant sterols in your diet offers a natural and effective means of managing cholesterol levels and improving overall heart health, amongst other potential benefits.

Do Plant Sterols Help With High Cholesterol?

Yes, plant sterols have been scientifically proven to be effective in reducing high cholesterol levels.

These naturally occurring compounds found in many plant-based foods can play a significant role in managing and reducing LDL cholesterol, often referred to as the “bad” cholesterol, when incorporated into a balanced diet.

Plant sterols work by partially blocking the absorption of cholesterol in the digestive system. This action not only reduces the amount of cholesterol that your body absorbs from your diet but also lowers the level of cholesterol in your blood.

However, it’s crucial to understand that while plant sterols can effectively lower cholesterol levels, they should not be viewed as a standalone treatment for high cholesterol or as a replacement for medication prescribed by a healthcare professional. Instead, they should be seen as a complementary approach—an additional tool in your arsenal for managing cholesterol levels.

For those with high cholesterol, a multifaceted approach is often necessary. This includes maintaining a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins; regular physical activity; weight management; and in some cases, medication. Plant sterols can augment this approach, providing an extra layer of support.

Can Plant Sterols Replace Statins?

No, plant sterols cannot replace statins particularly if this medication has been prescribed by your healthcare provider.

Plant sterols have demonstrated their efficacy in reducing cholesterol levels. However, it is essential to underscore that they should not be perceived as a direct replacement for statins or any other cholesterol-lowering medications. Statins are typically prescribed by healthcare professionals to individuals who have significantly high cholesterol levels or those with pre-existing heart conditions. These medications are designed to significantly lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease and strokes. Plant sterols have been studied as an adjunct therapy – not as a replacement.

If you have been prescribed statins, it is crucial to continue following your healthcare provider’s recommendations. Any changes to your medication regime, including the addition of plant sterols to your diet, should only be undertaken after consulting with your healthcare professional. While plant sterols can complement the effects of statins and contribute to an overall healthier lifestyle, they should not be used as a substitute for prescribed medication.

In essence, plant sterols can serve as an additional tool in the battle against high cholesterol and cardiovascular diseases. However, they are not a silver bullet and should be used as part of a multi-faceted approach that includes prescribed medication, a balanced diet, regular exercise, and healthy lifestyle habits. Always remember to consult with your healthcare provider before making any significant changes to your healthcare regimen.

What Food is Highest in Plant Sterols?

Indeed, a wide range of foods are naturally abundant in plant sterols, allowing for easy integration of these beneficial compounds into your diet. Here are some examples of food items that are particularly high in plant sterols:

Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, and chia seeds are great examples. These are not only rich in plant sterols but also provide a good source of fiber and healthy fats.

Vegetable Oils: Certain oils, including olive oil, sesame oil, canola oil, and corn oil, contain high levels of plant sterols. These oils can be used in cooking or as a dressing for salads.

plant sterols

Whole Grains: Whole grains like oatmeal, whole wheat, brown rice, and quinoa are excellent sources of plant sterols. They also offer additional health benefits like high fiber content and essential nutrients.

Legumes: Legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, black beans, and soybeans are rich in plant sterols. They are also a good source of protein and fiber, making them a heart-healthy choice.

Fruits and Vegetables: Certain fruits and vegetables, including avocados, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, oranges, and strawberries, contain plant sterols. These foods also provide a wide array of other beneficial nutrients and antioxidants.

By incorporating these foods into your meals, you can naturally increase your intake of plant sterols.

What is the Mechanism of Action of Phytosterols?

Phytosterols, or plant sterols, have a fascinating mechanism of action that allows them to help regulate cholesterol levels in the body.

Structurally, phytosterols closely resemble cholesterol, which allows them to compete with dietary cholesterol for absorption in the intestines. The absorption process of dietary cholesterol occurs primarily in the small intestine, where both phytosterols and cholesterol are incorporated into micelles—small lipid structures that facilitate the transport of fats through the intestine.

When phytosterols are present, they get preferentially incorporated into these micelles due to their similar structure to cholesterol, effectively outcompeting cholesterol for a spot. As a result, less cholesterol ends up being absorbed into the body’s system, and more is excreted.

Furthermore, phytosterols can block the action of a protein called NPC1L1, which plays a crucial role in the absorption of cholesterol at the intestinal wall. By inhibiting this protein, phytosterols further reduce the absorption of cholesterol into the bloodstream.

In consequence, the bioavailability of cholesterol is reduced, leading to a decrease in overall cholesterol levels in the body. This mechanism of action of phytosterols is the primary reason they are beneficial for individuals aiming to lower their cholesterol levels.

However, while they can help manage cholesterol levels, phytosterols are not a substitute for a healthy diet, regular exercise, and prescribed medication when required. They should be considered as part of a comprehensive approach to maintaining heart health. As always, consult with a healthcare provider before making significant changes to your diet or medication regimen.

Who Should Use Phytosterols? Who Should Not Take Phytosterols?

Phytosterols can indeed be beneficial for a wide range of individuals, particularly those with high cholesterol levels or those actively seeking to improve their overall heart health. By aiding in the reduction of LDL cholesterol, often referred to as the “bad” cholesterol, phytosterols can contribute significantly to cardiovascular wellness.

However, as with any dietary change or addition of a dietary supplement, it is always important to consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating phytosterols into your diet. This is especially crucial for individuals with any pre-existing medical conditions or those currently on medication, as phytosterols may interact with certain drugs or affect the management of certain health conditions.

Specifically, individuals with a rare genetic disorder called sitosterolemia, which causes abnormally high absorption of phytosterols, should avoid consuming phytosterols as they could potentially exacerbate the condition.

Pregnant or breastfeeding women should also seek medical advice before using phytosterol supplements. While phytosterols are naturally present in many foods and are generally safe for consumption, the effects of concentrated phytosterol supplements on pregnant or breastfeeding women are not well-studied.

In essence, while phytosterols offer potential health benefits, they are not suitable for everyone. Always consult with a healthcare provider to make sure they are a safe and beneficial addition to your dietary regimen.

Generally, the recommendation is a daily intake of 2 grams of plant sterols, or phytosterols, to effectively lower cholesterol levels. This amount has been shown to potentially reduce LDL cholesterol levels by 6 to 15 percent.

To achieve this intake, it is advisable to incorporate phytosterols into a balanced and varied diet, rather than relying exclusively on supplements. Many everyday foods, including nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, naturally contain phytosterols.

In addition, many food products on the market today are fortified with phytosterols to help individuals meet their recommended daily intake. These can include margarine spreads, yogurt, milk, and even orange juice. Look for products labeled as ‘fortified with plant sterols’ or similar wording.

It’s important to note that while these fortified foods can help increase your intake of phytosterols, they should be consumed as part of a healthy diet and not be seen as a replacement for naturally occurring sources of phytosterols or a balanced diet.

As always, before making any significant changes to your diet or beginning a supplement regimen, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional. They can provide personalized advice based on your unique health situation and needs.

How Many Grams of Plant Sterols Daily Can Lower Cholesterol by Up to 10 Percent?

Indeed, scientific research indicates that consuming 2 grams of plant sterols daily can effectively lower LDL cholesterol levels by up to 10 percent. This finding underscores the potential of plant sterols as a valuable tool in managing cholesterol levels.

Plant sterols, or phytosterols, work by blocking the absorption of cholesterol in the intestines, leading to lower amounts of cholesterol entering the bloodstream. The daily intake of 2 grams is typically recommended as it has been shown to be both safe and effective in reducing LDL cholesterol levels.

However, it’s important to note that while plant sterols can aid in cholesterol management, they should be used as part of a comprehensive approach to maintaining heart health. This includes a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, regular physical activity, and, if necessary, cholesterol-lowering medication. Additionally, regular check-ups with your healthcare provider are crucial for monitoring cholesterol levels and assessing the effectiveness of your cholesterol management strategies.

As always, before making any significant changes to your diet or beginning a supplement regimen, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional to ensure the approach is safe and suitable for your specific health needs.

How Long Should You Take Plant Sterols to Lower Cholesterol?

The incorporation of plant sterols, or phytosterols, into your diet should be viewed as a long-term commitment rather than a quick fix for managing cholesterol levels. Their cholesterol-lowering effect is not permanent and depends on regular and consistent consumption.

It may take several weeks to months of consistent consumption of plant sterols to see a significant reduction in cholesterol levels. However, individual responses can vary, and some people may see changes sooner or later than others.

Given that plant sterols work by blocking the absorption of cholesterol in the digestive system, their effect diminishes when they are no longer being consumed. Therefore, for sustained benefits, it’s important to regularly consume foods rich in phytosterols or fortified with them.

Regular check-ups with your healthcare provider are crucial during this period. They can monitor your cholesterol levels, assess the effectiveness of your current dietary regimen, and make any necessary adjustments to your treatment plan.


Plant sterols offer a natural and effective way to lower cholesterol levels and improve heart health. By inhibiting the absorption of dietary cholesterol, they contribute to reducing LDL cholesterol levels and lowering the risk of heart disease. However, it is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional before making any changes to your cholesterol management plan. At Replenish Aesthetics & Wellness, our dedicated staff is committed to providing advanced and refined information on the effects of plant sterols on cholesterol. Take charge of your health and explore the benefits of plant sterols in managing your cholesterol levels.

A Note From Replenish Aesthetics & Wellness

At Replenish Aesthetics & Wellness, we prioritize combining beauty and wellness to help you achieve optimal health and radiance. Our expert staff is here to guide you through your journey towards better health and well-being. Contact us today to learn more about our cosmetic treatments and wellness services aimed at keeping you feeling and looking your best.

Recent Posts


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Ready to schedule your treatment or Dysport/ Filler Party?

Unable to locate Global Block