If you are prone to developing high cholesterol, you may be interested in supplements that help support overall cardiovascular health, especially those that keep LDL cholesterol levels within range healthy. An example is the plant sterol called beta-sitosterol.
What is the effect of beta-sitosterol?
Scientific evidence demonstrate that diets including plant sterols such as beta-sitosterol can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Phytosterols work by blocking the amount of cholesterol absorbed by the body after consumption. While phytosterol supplements are a convenient option, you can also get these beneficial compounds by consuming healthy foods like nuts, seeds, beans, and certain oils.
That is beta-sitosterol?
Beta-sitosterol (BS) is a phytosterol, which is a type of beneficial compound found in certain plant foods . Specifically, it is a compound found in plants such as nuts, seeds, oils, and legumes that mimics cholesterol and may help lower blood levels of LDL cholesterol. It is consumed in food and also in supplement form, most commonly by those looking to lower their LDL and total cholesterol levels and improve prostate health.
What is beta-sitosterol used for?
Because it is a phytosterol, also called plant sterol or sterol ester, whose structure mimics that of cholesterol it can help naturally lower cholesterol and potentially lower the risk of developing heart disease. It is sometimes also used to help manage other symptoms and conditions, although there is less research at present to confirm that it works well for these purposes. For example, in some cases, it can be taken in supplement form to support prostate health and prevent allergies, asthma, gallbladder disease, tuberculosis, and joint and muscle pain.
The Main Benefits of Beta-Sitosterol:
1. May help lower LDL
One of the most common uses of BS supplements and benefits of eating foods containing beta-sitosterol is the reduction of cholesterol absorption in the intestines. This helps lower LDL, the “bad cholesterol,” which is linked to an increased risk of heart disease such as coronary heart disease and atherosclerosis. Studies show that people who maintain low levels of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol in their blood tend to have a diet not only low in total fat, especially saturated fat and cholesterol, but also relatively high in foods plants containing dietary fiber and other components.
How much should you eat to help balance cholesterol?
Experts recommend consuming at least two grams of phytosterols daily from healthy foods, such as nuts and seeds, in addition to regular exercise to support overall cardiovascular function. BS supplements might also be recommended for people with high cholesterol, at doses above 90 mg/day. While phytosterols may help lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, they will not raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) “good” cholesterol levels. It is therefore always important to consume healthy fats as part of a balanced diet.
2. May help prevent prostate problems
BS is used to reduce symptoms associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate), which can cause problems with the control and frequency of urination in men. It is thought to work by binding to the prostate to help reduce swelling and inflammation, which can cause discomfort and the urge to urinate. However, the exact mechanism of its action is not fully known. It is simply known to be linked to cholesterol metabolism and anti-inflammatory effects.
A Cochrane study by 2000 aimed to assess the effects of beta-sitosterols on urinary symptoms and urine flow measurements in men with benign prostatic hyperplasia and concluded that the evidence suggests that beta-sitosterols improve both, even if they did not cause a reduction in actual prostate size. At the age of 60 years, more than 50 % of men suffer from benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and that at the age of 85 years, 90 % of men have this condition. Besides increasing the intake of plant sterols, other supplements that may help men with BPH include saw palmetto, pygeum, and lycopene.
3. May have immune supporting and cancer fighting effects
Some evidence suggests that BS may be able to induce apotheosis (cell of cancer cells) and inhibit the growth of certain types of human cancer cells, such as those that contribute to colon cancer and breast cancer. It is not used alone as a treatment for cancer, but rather is seen as an adjunct to other medications and procedures. There is also limited evidence showing that it may help improve immune function, particularly in athletes who engage in intensive exercise.
Risks and Side Effects
Although BS is safe when consumed in food and generally considered safe when taken as a supplement, it may cause side effects in some people, such as:
Beta-Sitosterol is intended for use for a maximum period of six months. Consult your doctor if you plan to take a supplement longer than this period. People taking medications to control their cholesterol levels should check with their doctor before starting a beta-sitosterol supplement because beta-sitosterol may affect the way some cholesterol-lowering medications work. People with the genetic disease of phytosterolemia, which causes overabsorption of phytosterols, should also carefully avoid BS supplements and consult with their doctor to find out how many foods containing phytosterols are safe to eat.
Foods high in beta-sitosterol
Phytosterols, including BS, are found in foods that naturally contain fats, such as nuts , seeds, avocados and vegetable oils. Although these are low-fat foods, some legumes also contain beta-sitosterol.
Here are examples of some of the foods highest in beta-sitosterol:
– Rapeseed oil
– Avocado – Vegetable oils made from nuts and seeds, such as soybean oil (which some experts don’t recommend as much as healthier oils like olive oil or avocado oil). – Dressings for salads based on vegetable oils
– Pistachios – Almonds
– Beans – Hazelnuts
– Walnuts – Pecans
– Wheat germ
– Certain types of margarines and mayonnaise made from vegetable oils.
Supplements and dosage
S In supplement form, BS is usually taken in capsule form by mouth, sometimes in divided doses several times a day. It comes in the form of a white, waxy powder that sometimes has an unpleasant odor. In addition to being a supplement, it is used as a food additive.
How much beta-sitosterol should you take?
Dosage recommendations vary depending on your current medical condition and the condition you are treating. Typical dosage for adults is between 150 and 2 500 milligrams daily, with higher doses suggested for people with inherited high cholesterol. It is considered safe for most people to take 90 mg/day for up to six months, which is the recommended amount to achieve cholesterol-lowering effects. Lower doses, in the range of 90 mg/day, may be more effective in treating bladder and prostate problems.
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