Plant sterols and cholesterol are similar in structure so they compete for absorption in the small intestine; the plant sterols stop the cholesterol from being absorbed.
Consuming plant sterols can reduce LDL cholesterol by 10 to 15 percent.
To gain these benefits you need to consume 2 to 3 grams (approximately 2 or 3 serves)* of sterols a day. Small amounts of sterols are found naturally in some plants but to consume this amount you will need to consume foods that have been enriched with plant sterols (some margarine spreads, cheese and low fat milk).
Aim for 2 to 3 serves of sterol enriched foods each day.
One serve (approximately 1 gram) sterol enriched foods:
- 10 grams – about 2 teaspoons sterol spread (e.g. Logicol, Pro-activ)
- 250 ml – 1 glass milk with sterols (e.g. HeartActive)
- 20 grams – 1 slice cheese with sterols (e.g. Live Active Cheese Slices)
*Consuming less than the recommended amount is of no benefit and consuming more than the recommended amount gains no additional benefits.
N.B. Plant sterols have been shown to lower the levels of carotenoids in the blood, so it is recommended that you eat at least one serve of yellow or orange coloured fruit and vegetables (e.g. carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato, mangoes and rockmelon) every day.
- are suitable for children, but discuss with your doctor first
- not suitable for pregnant or breastfeeding women as safety has not been established. More research is required in this area.
- Ezetimibe and plant sterols work by similar mechanisms, therefore plant sterols may not be beneficial if you are taking Ezetimibe. More research is required in this area.
Where to get help
- Your doctor
- Dietitians Association of Australia