Cholesterol: Plant sterols and stanols

Heather Miller.

Heather Miller.

Dietitian Heather Miller, who holds clinics in Balla, Castlebar, and Ballindine, this week talks about lowering cholesterol.

Plant sterols and stanols are used to help lower cholesterol levels. These occur naturally in foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, cereals, legumes, olive and peanut oils. It is estimated that on average people consume about 150 to 400mg per day of naturally occurring stanols and sterols, but an average dietary intake at this level has very little effect on blood cholesterol levels.

Stanols and sterols need to be modified slightly so that they can be incorporated into foods more easily and so work more efficiently in the body. There is a wide range of products and some brands which now have added stanols or sterols include Benecol, Flora pro-activ, Danone Danacol and MiniCol. They work by reducing cholesterol absorption from the gut.

Both stanols and sterols have a similar effect on cholesterol. A healthy diet and regular exercise in combination with plant sterols/stanols can reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol by 10 to 20 per cent.

Products containing stanols and sterols are not a substitute for lipid-lowering medications prescribed by your doctor. However, people on statins and fibrate drugs to help lower cholesterol levels can use foods containing sterols or stanols as they have a different type of action and may have a greater overall effect on lowering cholesterol levels. If you do not have a raised cholesterol level, there is no benefit from including these foods in the diet.

Heather Miller has clinics in Balla Medical Centre, Balla; 24 St Patrick’s Avenue, Castlebar; and Healthwest Pharmacy, Ballindine. If you want to make an appointment with Heather Miller call her on 087 172 3664 or email [email protected]


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