High cholesterol: Plant sterols are the ‘most effective’ for lowering levels – sources

This Morning's Dr Chris discusses the signs of high cholesterol

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High cholesterol describes the build-up of a fatty substance called cholesterol in your arteries. While this condition might not draw attention to itself with warning signs, it can stir up some serious health problems, ranging from heart attacks to strokes. Fortunately, eating your way through creamy foods packed with plant sterols could help.

“Plant sterols are compounds from plants that have the ability to remove cholesterol from the body,” the nutritionist explained.

What’s more, Heart UK reports that certain experts believe the plant goodies to be “the most effective single food for lowering cholesterol”.

When it comes to the reduction you can expect to see, the number is set between seven to 10 percent.

“We know from research that 1.5 to 2.4 grams a day of plant sterols can lower cholesterol by seven to 10 percent in two to three weeks,” Hobson added.

What are the food sources of plant sterols?

Plant sterols are naturally contained in small amounts of plant-based foods.

From fruits to nuts, these groceries represent natural sources, however, there’s a catch.

As plant sterols are only found in “tiny quantities”, you would need to eat an “enormous number” of these foods to get the daily amount needed to lower cholesterol.

This is where food companies, such as Flora and Benecol, step in.

Their range of plant-sterol products includes the goodies in the likes of butter, yoghurts, dairy drinks and more.

But how do the compounds get into dairy products? The companies use plant sterols to fortify them.

While going on a generic bread-and-butter spree might do more harm than good to your levels, using products specifically enriched with plant sterols could help.

For example, Flora shares that plant sterols in Flora ProActiv have been clinically proven to lower cholesterol over 50 clinical studies.

Hobson added: “As part of a healthy lifestyle, eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables can help naturally lower cholesterol.

“Especially foods, such as Flora ProActiv, which contain plant sterols.”

How can plant sterols lower high cholesterol levels?

It all comes down to their chemical structure which is similar to that of cholesterol.

Once you eat the plant compounds, they can partially block the absorption of cholesterol from your gut.

This can help lower your blood cholesterol levels. Heart UK explains that the fortified foods do this gradually.

It can take up to a few weeks and the reduction will depend on how much you eat.

What’s more, plant sterols have a different mechanism compared to statins, so they can be taken together for a greater cholesterol-lowering effect. 

According to Flora, the recommended intake of plant sterols is around two grams a day.

This can be achieved by eating three servings of Flora ProActiv spreads or milk drink.  

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