Overview

Beta-sitosterol is a substance found in plants. Chemists call it a "plant sterol ester." It is found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. It is used to make medicine.

Beta-sitosterol is most commonly used for lowering cholesterol levels and improving symptoms of an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH). It is also used for other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support its other uses.

In foods, beta-sitosterol is added to some margarines (Take Control, for example) that are designed for use as part of a cholesterol-lowering diet and for preventing heart disease. The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows manufacturers to claim that foods containing plant sterol esters such as beta-sitosterol are for reducing the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). This rule is based on the FDA's conclusion that plant sterol esters may reduce the risk of CHD by lowering bloodcholesterol levels. Although there is plenty of evidence that beta-sitosterol does lower cholesterol levels, there is no proof that long-term use actually lowers the risk of developing CHD.

Don't confuse beta-sitosterol with sitostanol, a similar substance contained in the product called Benecol. Both sitostanol and beta-sitosterol are used for lowering cholesterol levels in people with high cholesterol and appear to be equally effective.

How does it work ?

Beta-sitosterol is a plant substance similar to cholesterol. It might help reduce cholesterol levels by limiting the amount of cholesterol that is able to enter the body. It can also bind to the prostate to help reduce swelling (inflammation).

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