Kids Lower Cholesterol With Help From a New Margarine
May 5, 2000 -- Using a new type of margarine lowers cholesterol in healthy children and gives them a head start on avoiding the life-long process of developing heart disease, according to a study from Finland that appears in the April issue of The Journal of Pediatrics.
In addition, the investigators find that this new spread, called plant stanol ester margarine but sold as Benecol, has no bad side effects in the short run for healthy children who already consume a low-saturated-fat, low-cholesterol diet.
The margarine is derived from pine tree wood pulp and works by blocking the absorption of cholesterol in the gastrointestinal tract.
"Finland is a country with a high death rate from [heart] disease," Anne Tammi, MD, tells WebMD. "Most children in our country have [cholesterol levels] much higher than recommended. We wanted to study whether plant stanol margarine would further decrease ? cholesterol in healthy children who had been on a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol for years." Tammi is a researcher at the University of Turku in Finland and one of the study's investigators.
"There is a consensus today that [heart] disease has it roots in very early childhood," Alpo Vuorio, MD, tells Web MD. "The take-home message here is that stanol ester spread offers an effective and safe way to lower [overall] cholesterol and LDL (the "bad" cholesterol) without side effects." Vuorio, a University of Helsinki researcher, led an earlier study on the new margarine.
The 72 children who completed this latest study also are participants in another trial in Finland that is looking at whether children will avoid developing heart disease if they watch their diet from birth. In the study, each day for three months they replaced their regular margarines with 20 grams of the stanol ester spread. To put that in perspective, there are eight grams of stanol ester in one and a half teaspoons.
Blood tests to measure the total cholesterol, LDL "bad" cholesterol and HDL "good" cholesterol, were taken before and after the study.
Using the stanol ester margarine decreased the total cholesterol over 5% and decreased "bad" cholesterol by over 7%. Although the HDL did not change, the effect was still positive, because ratio to total cholesterol count increased.