LDL-cholesterol levels were also reduced 9.2%, while triglyceride levels fell by a similar amount when 1.8 grams of esterified plant sterols/stanols were provided in softgels and consumed in combination with National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) diet, according to findings published in Nutrition.
“Although effective, phytosterol-containing foods may be difficult for individuals to incorporate into a cholesterol-lowering diet without altering the macronutrient intake and/or distribution,” wrote researchers, led by Biofortis’ Kevin Maki, PhD.
“The use of a plant sterol/stanol softgel capsule supplement may be a more convenient option that might increase compliance during long-term use compared with the types of dietary changes needed to incorporate phytosterol-containing foods.”
The study was funded by Pharmavite.
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.
A recent review by scientists at Unilever also indicated that the compounds – most often formulated into margarines and dairy products like yogurt – may also impact triglyceride levels in the blood (European Journal of Nutrition, doi: 10.1007/s00394-011-0297-x).
The new study adds to these findings and reveals that four dietary supplement softgel capsules per day may be effective for similar reductions when incorporated in the NCEP TLC diet.
Dr Maki and his co-workers recruited 28 people with elevated cholesterol levels with an average age of 58, and an average BMI of 27.9 kg/m2, to participate in their trial. All participants consumed the NCEP-TLC diet for five weeks, and then they were randomly assigned to receive either the sterol/stanol softgels or placebo for a further six weeks. The subjects then crossed over the other group for a final six weeks.
Results showed that the sterol/stanol supplements were associated with significant reductions in total cholecterol, LDL-cholesterol, and triglycerides of 7.4%, 9.2%, and 9.1%, respectively.
“The daily incorporation of four dietary supplement softgel capsules (two with each of two meals), providing esterified plant sterols/stanols 1.8 g/d (sterol/stanol esters ∼2.9 g/d) into the NCEP TLC diet, a dosage that is within the range (1–3 g) for which the response is fairly linear produced favorable changes in atherogenic lipoprotein cholesterol levels in subjects with hypercholesterolemia similar to those expected based on previous meta-analyses,” wrote the researchers.
“The long-term plant sterol/stanol use would be expected to decrease the risk for cardiovascular disease,” they concluded.
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2012.05.002
“Lipid effects of a dietary supplement softgel capsule containing plant sterols/stanols in primary hypercholesterolemia”
Authors: Kevin C. Maki, Andrea L. Lawless, Matthew S. Reeves, Kathleen M. Kelley, Mary R. Dicklin, Belinda H. Jenks, Ed Shneyvas, James R. Brooks