Plant Sterols, Statins & Cholesterol – Nature's Way

Plant Sterols, Statins & Cholesterol

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Plant Sterols, Statins & Cholesterol

With cardiovascular disease being the leading cause of death in the UK and worldwide, clearly, further action is needed to reverse the trend.

With this in view, a very recent meta-analysis conducted on randomised controlled trials up to December 2015, evaluated the effect of plant sterols or stanols in patients already on statin therapy to reduce cholesterol levels.  The analysis involving 500 participants, found that those on stanol or sterol-enriched diets, in combination with statin medication produced significant reductions in total cholesterol as well as the unfavourable low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.  The meta-analysis provided further evidence that stanol or sterol-enriched diets additionally lower cholesterol levels in patients treated with statins, beyond that achieved by statins alone.  

Plants sterols and stanols occur naturally in certain foods such as vegetable oils, grains, nuts, seeds and fruits and vegetables.  They have a chemical structure that is similar to cholesterol hence they prevent less cholesterol being absorbed into the bloodstream.  Many foods are now enriched with plant sterols and stanols such as margarine spreads, orange juice, cereals and granola bars.  There are also ranges of food supplements available in tablet form containing plants sterols and stanols.  Additionally, plant sterols have been found to reduce blood fats overall, making them a very useful treatment for patients not eligible for statin medication.

There are a number of potential side effects noted with statin medication, for example joint and muscle pain, fatigue, digestive upsets and increased blood sugar levels.  It therefore, seems prudent to suggest that if a reduction in cholesterol readings can be effected quicker, this will be of greater benefit to the patient in terms of reducing or eradicating medication.

The meta-analysis was published in the journal Scientific Reports and used data collected from studies carried out around the world, therefore also acknowledging different dietary and lifestyle habits.  With raised cholesterol levels being a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, this research could help alleviate the potential burden of disease on patients and the healthcare systems worldwide.

 

Han S et al. Effects of plant stanol and sterol-enriched diets on lipid profiles in patients treated with statins: systematic review and meta-analysis.

Scientific Reports 6, Article number . 31337 (2016).  Published on line 19th August 2016

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