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Cholesterol & Triglycerides Health Center

Eating Plant Stanols Cuts Cholesterol

Study Shows Chemical Compounds in Fruits and Veggies Can Lower LDL Cholesterol
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By Katrina Woznicki
WebMD Health News

June 23, 2010 -- Eating 9 grams of stanols a day helped lower LDL "bad" cholesterol by 17.4%, according to a company-supported study from Europe.

Researchers also found that a graded (or linear) effect exists, meaning that the more stanols people ate across a spectrum of doses, the lower their cholesterol.

Elevated cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke. According to the CDC, one in every six U.S. adults has high cholesterol and these individuals face double the risk of heart disease.

Stanols are plant-based chemical compounds found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, and are added to everyday foods, such as margarine spreads, to help people reduce their cholesterol levels.

Lowering cholesterol through foods is appealing because it provides people with a way to improve their health without turning to medications. While it has been well-known that stanols reduce LDL -- the unhealthy cholesterol that clogs arteries -- it's been unclear whether higher doses of stanols are even more effective than currently recommended amounts.

Researchers from Maastricht University in the Netherlands and from University of Bonn in Germany placed 93 otherwise healthy people on one of four diets for four weeks. The first group, a comparison group, did not eat any stanol products; a second group ate 3 grams of stanols per day; a third group ate 6 grams; and the fourth group had a daily intake of 9 grams of stanols. They also had to answer a diet questionnaire and provide blood samples before beginning the diet and then during the course of the dietary intervention.

The stanols were in cups of soy-based yogurt and margarine spreads. The foods used in this study were manufactured by a Finland-based functional foods company, Raisio Nutrition Ltd., which also funded this study. The total calories consumed, including the amounts of cholesterol, were about the same between the four diet groups.

Lowering Cholesterol With Stanols

Compared with the comparison group, eating 3, 6, and 9 grams of stanols lowered LDL concentrations by 7.4%, 11.9%, and 17.4%, respectively.

The findings are published in the July issue of American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. But your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as statins. Following medication, dietary, and exercise instructions should result in improvements.

Your total cholesterol level is High, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications.

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