Unilever review supports sterols’ ability to lower triglycerides

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Unilever review supports sterols’ ability to lower triglycerides

Related tags: Triglyceride levels, Cholesterol

Daily intake of plant sterols – well established to reduce cholesterol levels – may also produce ‘modest’ reductions in triglyceride levels, says a new review from Unilever.

Data from 12 clinical trials indicated that intakes of about 2 grams per day were associated with a 6% reduction in triglyceride levels, researchers from Unilever R&D and Wageningen University in the Netherlands report.

“In the absence of intervention studies that directly quantified the [coronary heart disease] CHD risk reduction resulting from lowering triglycerides only, it is difficult to determine whether the additional effect that a modest 6% triglyceride reduction may have on CHD risk is clinically relevant next to the average 10% LDL-cholesterol reduction achievable with an intake of 2 g/day of plant sterols,” ​they wrote in the European Journal of Nutrition​.

“Nevertheless, although not as strong as LDL-cholesterol, elevated triglyceride is increasingly being recognised as a possible risk factor for CHD.”

Sterols/stanols and cholesterol

Numerous clinical trials in controlled settings have reported that daily consumption of 1.5 to 3 grams of phytosterols/-stanols from foods can reduce total cholesterol levels by eight to 17%, representing a significant reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The new review indicates that the compounds – most often formulated into margarines and dairy products like yogurt – may also impact triglyceride levels in the blood.

Led by Unilever’s Rouyanne Ras, the researchers pooled individual data from 12 randomized controlled trials involving 935 people with high cholesterol levels, all of which were sponsored by Unilever.

Sterol intakes ranged from 1.6 to 2.5 grams per day, and sterol intake was associated with a 6% reduction in triglyceride levels.

The study also revealed that sterol intake was not associated with any changes in HDL-cholesterol levels.

“Foods enriched with plant sterols modestly lower triglyceride concentrations, especially in those with high triglyceride concentrations at baseline,” ​wrote the researchers.

“This effect may add to the overall benefit of using plant sterol-enriched foods as part of therapeutic lifestyle and diet changes for improving blood lipid profiles,” ​they concluded.

Source: European Journal of Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, Online First​, doi: 10.1007/s00394-011-0297-x
“The effect of plant sterols on serum triglyceride concentrations is dependent on baseline concentrations: a pooled analysis of 12 randomised controlled trials”
Authors: I. Demonty, R.T. Ras, H.C.M. van der Knaap, L. Meijer, P.L. Zock

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