BASF: ‘We’re elevating the game around plant sterols’

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / RomoloTavani
© Getty Images / RomoloTavani

Related tags Plant sterols Cholesterol Sterol

For ingredients with a solid body of scientific substantiation for their cholesterol management claims, plant sterols perhaps do not get the attention they deserve from consumers and healthcare practitioners. BASF is seeking to change the conversation with innovation around the ingredients and their delivery.

Sterols are typically used in dietary supplements and as functional ingredients in food products to reduce cholesterol. Numerous clinical trials in controlled settings have reported that daily consumption of 1.5 to 3 grams of phyto-sterols/-stanols from foods can reduce total cholesterol levels by eight to 17%, representing a significant reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The US FDA approved health claim states​ that 1.3 grams of plant sterols per day as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease. (For plant stanols, the daily dose increases to 3.4 grams)

Despite such strong science, there hasn’t been a lot of innovation around sterols, Abhijit Natu, marketing, human nutrition for BASF, told NutraIngredients-USA at the recent SupplySide West show in Las Vegas.

“One third of the global population has cardiovascular problems,” ​said Natu. “Cholesterol is a challenge and that’s the main reason we’re focusing on that at SupplySide West.”


The company partnered with The Aenova Group to launch Vegapure Emulsorb, a patented micro-emulsifying plant sterol ester complex that competes with cholesterol for uptake in the gut. The Vegapure Emulsorb is delivered in easy-to-swallow, vegan capsules.

“These are the most efficacious sterol supplements you can get due to the microemulsion,” ​said Natu. “We’re elevating the game around plant sterols.”

The annual cost of healthcare related to heart disease is about $207 billion (CDC data). “Compelling science supports health-enhancing ingredients such as phytosterols and omega-3s, yet heart-related incidents continue to rise,” said John Helfrick, Director, BASF Nutrition & Health. “BASF is collaborating with technology innovators so our customers have the resources they need to develop effective and convenient heart healthy dietary supplements to help reduce risk and support prevention.”

While sales in the US have been stable, and certain segments have shown growth, awareness around the benefits of sterols in lower in the US compared to Europe, said Natu.

Data provided by SPINS shows that sales of products containing beta-sitosterol across natural, mass, and gourmet channels grew 278% from 2016 to 2017 to reach $5.7 million (52 weeks ending Sept 10). On the flip side, other plant sterol products saw a 27% decline in sales from 2016 to 2017, from $13.6 million to $9.9 million.

The company also showcased other turnkey solutions for cardiovascular support in Las Vegas, including: Almond milk with 400 mg of plant sterols per 8 ounce serving; gluten-free chocolate chip cookie bites containing 650 mg of sterol esters and 50 mg of EPA+DHA per bite; peanut butter bites with 650 mg of sterol esters, 50 mg of EPA+DHA, and 100%DV of B1 per 10 gram serving; and licorice gummies with each bite-size licorice piece containing 325 mg of sterol esters (so four small pieces contain an entire daily dose).


The company is also looking into potential synergistic effects with other ingredients inside BASF’s portfolio and beyond. One example showcased at SupplySide West combined BASF’s VegaPure plant sterol  esters with vitamin K2 (K2Vital Delta, Kappa Bioscience), magnesium and vitamin B1.

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