Beta-sistosterol Lowers Cholesterol
What is beta-sitosterol? A phytosterol or plant alcohol that is literally in every vegetable we eat. We already eat this every day but we just don’t get enough of it. The typical American is estimated to eat only 200-400 mg a day, while vegetarians probably eat twice this much. This is surely one of the many reasons vegetarians are healthier and live longer. Actually the term “beta-sitosterol” in commerce refers to the natural combination of beta-sitosterol, stigmasterol, campesterol and brassicasterol, as this is how they are made by nature in plants. There are no magic foods with high levels of phytosterols, but they can be inexpensively extracted from sugar cane pulp, soybeans and pine oil.
Upjohn Pharmaceuticals tried to make a patentable, prescription analog (chemical relative) of it decades ago for lowering cholesterol but did not succeed - the natural molecule works best. The scientific community has been well aware of it and clinics around the world have done extensive studies on both humans and animals including gall bladder, bile and liver functions since these are all part of the cholesterol metabolism. The major mechanism that seems to be effective is simply preventing the dietary cholesterol from being absorbed in the intestines where fat is digested. Another way this seems to work is by increasing the flow of bile acids, which binds the cholesterol in the digestive track and excretes it in the feces. There are just too many studies to count so a few of the most interesting human studies have been picked to include here.
At McGill University in Montreal (Canadian Journal of Physiology v. 75, 1997) doctors did a review of the literature on beta-sitosterol and cholesterol metabolism and selected 18 studies.They concluded, “addition to diet of phytosterols represents an effective means of improving circulating lipid profiles to reduce risk of coronary heart disease.” This review came complete with forty high quality references and left no doubt about the effectiveness of plant sterols.
Also at McGill University (Metabolism Clinical & Experimental v. 47, 1998) patients on a fixed diet were given sterols from pine oil for a mere ten days in a strict, randomized crossover study. These were not low fat or low cholesterol diets at all. The people successfully lowered both their total cholesterol and LDL levels in this short term placebo controlled experiment. The doctors concluded, “These results demonstrate the short term efficacy of pine oil plant sterols as cholesterol lowering agents.”
A very interesting study was done at the Center for Human Nutrition in France (Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism v. 39, 1995) in that healthy people with normal cholesterol levels were given beta- sitosterol to see if their normal levels could be lowered even further. We always, of course, think of studies as using unhealthy people with pathological cholesterol levels given supplements to make them normal again. Amazingly enough the healthy people lowered their normal cholesterol levels even more with no change in diet or exercise. In fact, there levels were a full 10% lower in only a month. This kind of effect is really fascinating. They said, “The present results may be of great interest in the prevention of high cholesterol diet-associated risks, especially in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases”. Since beta-sitosterol was so effective for people who didn’t even need it, think what it will do for those people who do need to lower their blood lipids. They concluded, “These findings suggest that a significant lowering of plasma total and LDL cholesterol can be effected by a modest dietary intake of soybean phytosterols.”
A good study was done at the Wageningen Agricultural Institute in the Netherlands, the same clinic that did so much good research on trans fatty acids (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition v. 72, 2000). Men and women ate a margarine containing plant sterols and got very significant reductions in cholesterol as well as lower LDL levels in only three weeks. Why a clinic would give margarine to people after studying the negative effects of hydrogenated oils is another matter. Again, these were healthy subjects with normal cholesterol levels, yet they still got great benefits very quickly with no change in diet or exercise.
At Uppsala University in Sweden (European Heart Journal, Supp. 1, 1999) the doctors wanted to give the volunteers the phytosterols in conjunction with a cholesterol lowering diet to see the results of a more comprehensive lifestyle program. The results were really impressive in that the men and women lowered total cholesterol a full 15% and LDL cholesterol a full 19% in less than a month. The shows the very dramatic results you can get with just adding some reasonable dietary changes even without any exercise program at all. Complimentary medicine doctors have learned that adding these phytosterols to their usual prescription “statin” drugs makes them far more effective and the toxic dosages can be lowered. This is NOT my advice at all since the point of this book is to show you how to lower your blood fats naturally without drugs, but it does make a valid point certainly.
At Grosshadern Clinic in Munich (Current Therapeutic Research 57, 1996) doctors found double the cholesterol lowering benefits when sterols were added to the usual regimen of lovastatin. These statin drugs are so dangerous that liver function tests have to be given periodically to make sure the liver isn’t damaged too much. People with liver problems cannot take these drugs at all, but can and should use natural supplements like beta-sitosterol. Some people prefer to use prescription drugs even though there are natural alternatives available that are as much or more effective, certainly much safer, and less expensive. Such people should definitely add betasitosterol to their regimen of statin drugs along with the other supplements discussed in this book.
At the University of Kagawa in Tokyo two studies were done. The first was done on healthy young men who were given plant sterols for only five days. In this short time their cholesterol levels fell measurably (Joshi Eiyo Daigaku Kiyo 14, 1983). The second study was done on healthy young women (same journal v. 15, 1984) again giving them plant sterols for only five days. “Administration of phytosterol (mainly sitosterol) increased the output of fecal cholesterol.” These were all healthy young Japanese people eating a traditional low-fat diet who did not have a cholesterol problem to begin with, yet they received significant and measurable results in only five days.
At the University of California in San Diego men were isolated in a hospital ward and fed 500 mg capsules of pure cholesterol along with beta-sitosterol supplements (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 35, 1982). This resulted in a 42% decrease in cholesterol absorption in the intestines. They said, “Evidently, the judicious addition of beta-sitosterol to meals containing cholesterol rich foods will result in a decrease in cholesterol absorption with a consequent decrease in plasma cholesterol.”
The University of Helsinki took a big interest in lowering cholesterol with plant sterol therapy back in 1988. The first study (Clinical Chimica Acta v. 178) studied familial (genetic) hypercholesteremia. The higher the sterol levels they found in the patients’ blood the more cholesterol was excreted rather than absorbed. The second study was in 1989 (Metabolism Clinical & Experimental 38). Men were studied again for blood levels of sterols and they found the higher the levels the more cholesterol was successfully excreted. The third study in 1994 (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition v. 59) studied vegetarians who eat about twice as many plant sterols as normal people. They showed one reason vegetarians have lower cholesterol levels besides the lower fat food they eat is the efficiency of their cholesterol excretion due to their intakes of plant sterols. Genetically high cholesterol was again dramatically lowered in families by simply feeding them mixed sterols (Journal of Laboratory & Clinical Medicine v. 143, 2004).The last study in 1999 (Current Opinion Lipidology v. 10) they said, “Plant sterols may be useful for the treatment of hyper-cholesteremia…they may have a potent cholesterol lowering effect as shown in normal and hypercholesteremic men and women with and without coronary heart disease and diabetes mellitus.”
The famous Brandeis University doctors gave sterols to men in a crossover study and lowered total cholesterol 10% and LDL a full 15% in only four weeks with no change at all in diet. (Journal of Nutrition v. 134, 2004). This is amazing and proves you don’t need drugs to do it.
The best published review of all was from the University of British Columbia (American Journal of Medicine v. 107, 1999). This included a full 86 references, and went over sixteen different human studies using plant sterols to lower cholesterol and triglycerides since 1951. “In sixteen recently published human studies that used phytosterols to decrease plasma cholesterol levels in a total of 590 subjects, phytosterol therapy was accompanied by an average 10% decrease in total cholesterol and 13% decrease in LDL cholesterol.” They found this worked best with high-fat diets; the worse the diet the more results the researchers got. This is the best review to date.
At the University of Calgary the researchers found (Canadian Journal of Cardiology v. 17, 2001), “…it is clear that phytosterols, when added to a prudent diet, will lower serum total and LDL cholesterol. Numerous well designed studies have documented the beneficial actions of these phytosterols on serum cholesterol.” They point out that either sterols or stanols are both effective. Their estimate is that most Westerners eat less than 300 mg of plant sterols a day which is in agreement with other researchers.
Both healthy and hypercholesterolemic Japanese men were given sterols in mayonnaise for 12 weeks (Journal of Oleo Science v. 53, 2004). Both groups significantly lowered their total cholesterol and LDL.
At Washington University in St. Louis (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition v. 77, 2003) plant sterols from wheat germ were given to patients in muffins. “The present study shows that phytosterols intrinsic to wheat germ are biologically active and have a prominent role in reducing cholesterol absorption.”
We could go on all day with studies like this from such well known clinics and hospitals as the University of Hamburg, University of Oregon, Johns Hopkins University, Rockefeller University, and others around the world. The research is so extensive and wide ranging over the last 30 years that it is hard to find and count all the studies. How something so studied, proven, effective and well known to the scientific and medical community has stayed outside of public knowledge is hard to believe. You will notice that the expensive, prescription, patented and very profitable drugs have been heavily advertised and promoted and are best sellers. There is just no profit in a natural, unpatentable, non-prescription plant extract you can get from sugar cane pulp.
If you check vitamin catalogs it still is not easy to find good beta-sitosterol supplements with realistic amounts of sterols. One heavily advertised brand that sells for a high price has only 60 capsules containing a mere 20 mg apiece. You would literally have to take 15 capsules a day to get the benefits you need. You can find brands containing 300 mg with 60 capsules inexpensively if you look around or search the Internet under “beta-sitosterol”. Many studies have been done in other areas of illness that suggest beta-sitosterol may have great potential in other areas such as prostate disease, diabetes, blood clotting, ulcers, cancer prevention, tumors, immunity, inflammation and other conditions. These studies have been conducted at such institutions as the State University of New York, National Institutes of Health, University of Japan, University of Valencia, University of Stellengbosch, and other prestigious clinics who are willing to study an inexpensive natural plant extract that cannot be patented or sold be prescription. You will see more research and more benefits for beta-sitosterol every year.
One last word about the popular margarines that contain these plant sterols and stanols. This is a very expensive and poor way to take them. Adding all that fat to your diet is not what you are trying to do. Some of these margarines are made with hydrogenated oils. Why sell a “health” supplement full of saturated and/or synthetic hydrogenated fat to clog your arteries? Obviously the least expensive and most practical way is to take capsules or tablets.
Excerpted from the book Lower Cholesterol Without Drugs by Roger Mason. You can purchase a good quality beta-sitosterol from www.youngagain.com in a product called Better Cholesterol.
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