There are many different types of foods that have been shown to reduce the amount of cholesterol in the body. However, one of the more interesting is plant sterols which are becoming more popular by the day. Plant sterol supplements are a very popular item and many people take them as part of a cholesterol-lowering program.
However, do plant sterols really work and what exactly do they do within the body to lower the cholesterol that is present?
What are Plant Sterols?
A plant sterol, also known as phytosterols, is a naturally occurring molecule in plants that are similar to cholesterol found in our blood stream. When consumed, the plant sterols interfere with the body’s ability to absorb cholesterol. This is because when the plant sterols reach the intestines they are not absorbed, but instead link themselves to the cholesterol receptors. This means that when cholesterol is being passed through the intestines that far less of it is being absorbed by the body and instead continues on its way out along with the rest of the waste materials.
Many different types of foods contain plant sterols, but they can also be found in supplement form as well. They are fairly inexpensive and can add greatly to what is already naturally consumed. The overall effect of consuming plant sterols is considerable as shown in studies which have demonstrated a lowering of LDL cholesterol by an average of 14% over the course of a year. This effect also reduces the risk of developing heart disease by up to 25% as well.
Should You Take Plant Sterols?
For most people, plant sterols are safe and cause no side effects. However, those who have respiratory issues such as asthma for example should be very careful when consuming plant sterols in their supplement form as they come from soy. The dust can trigger an outbreak if not used with caution. Plus, anyone allergic to soy or pine should avoid supplements created from these products and instead use one from a plant where they have no allergic reaction.
It is true that the American Heart Association recommends for those who have high amounts of LDL cholesterol to take plant steroids. The same is true for those who have heart disease as well. Plant sterols should be taken along with a diet high in fiber as well as engaging in a good exercise program. Foods such as fruits, nuts, whole grain, and legumes for example contain large amounts of plant sterols, so supplements can be added if necessary.
Always talk to your doctor about increasing the amount of plant sterol that you are consuming through supplements. While consuming plant sterols through their natural sources in moderate amounts is certainly acceptable, there may be some unforeseen complications when taking supplements if you are also taking prescription medications or other types of treatment. It is better to be safe than sorry, so see your doctor if you are planning on taking plant sterols to help lower your LDL cholesterol levels.
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