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Plant Sterols -
Proven To Lower Cholesterol

Plant Sterols, or phytosterols affect cholesterol levels by inhibiting their absorption in the gastrointestinal tract. If you are just now looking into how to naturally lower cholesterol, this is one thing you should be aware of.

Their exact affect is understood to be to inhibit the body's ability to alter the cholesterol into absorbable forms, thus decreasing the amount of cholesterol that makes it into the blood stream.

This, in turn, helps control overall blood cholesterol levels. It also may modify HDL, LDL, and triglyceride levels. Phytosterols are often incorporated in heart healthy foods, though large amounts of these foods may need to be consumed to have the same affect as can be gained through supplementation.

What Are Plant Sterols?

Sterols are essential components of plant membranes in the same way as cholesterol is essential in mammalian cell systems and functions. Even though these sterols are present in all plant based foods, the amount that is absorbed from eating these foods is limited.

If you are wanting to know how to naturally lower cholesterol, this is one way that is effective. When added to foods such as cereals, table spreads, margarines, yogurts, juices, and puddings, they have been found to be more effective than just obtaining them from foods.

Studies suggest that cholesterol levels can be significantly reduced by just a daily consumption of about a tablespoon of fortified margarine. One phytosterol dietary supplement, Cholestatin, has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels by up to 15%.

Plant sterol research has been conducted for over 50 yeasr during which time they have been shown to significantly reduce blood cholesterol levels. Research has shown that people who have been taking statin drugs and who were already eating a heart healthy diet found the addition of sterols helped to further lower cholesterol.

The phytosterols were accredited with contributing to nearly a 10% reduction in LDL cholesterol levels. These results were published in the American Journal of Cardiology.

Phyto Sterol Products

"One problem is many of our patients already have lowered their intake of fats and calories and don't use products like margarine on a regular basis," says Anne Carol Goldberg, M.D., lead author of the new study and associate professor of medicine at Washington University. "In addition, many of these people eat out regularly, and they can't easily take a particular brand of margarine to a restaurant."

By March of 2006 a pill form of sterols was introduced and showed a significant promising affect on the lowering of overall cholesterol levels. This is an excellent new development since some people cannot consume sterol fortified foods that are on the market.

Since plant sterols are only fat soluble they must be dissolved into something before entering the gut to compete with food sources of cholesterol, it is unknown how effective the pill for will be in the long run. Strategies have been undertaken to solve this dilemma such as pre-dissolving the phytosterols in lecithin and then powdering it and compressing it into pill form.

"Those who started with higher LDL got a bigger response, a bigger drop in their LDL, when they added plant sterols to their regimen," Goldberg says.

How To Naturally Lower Cholesterol
With Phytosterols

When seeking how to naturally lower cholesterol, always begin with dietary changes. For most individuals, just adding phytosterols will not be enough. Increasing the amount of soluble fiber and decreasing the amount of saturated fat in your diet will have the most impact on cholesterol levels.

In addition to foods that have been fortified with plant sterols, you may want to look into taking cholesterol lowering supplements that include plant sterols in their ingredient list. Look for supplements that have multiple food based ingredients that have been shown to lower cholesterol such as natural oils, chromium and phytosterols.

By adding these to a low cholesterol diet you will see even greater improvments in your heart health.

As always, consult with your physician when making changes to your diet or taking nutritional supplements.

A natural product called Lipi-Rite contains plant sterols and can lower your cholesterol even more dramatically when used together with changes in diet.

There is more than Plant Sterols on our Foods That Lower Cholesterol page.