Discover the natural way to healthy cholesterol
Plant sterols are natural compounds found in plant foods that are clinically proven to maintain healthy cholesterol level.
At the molecular level, plant sterols resemble human cholesterol and work by blocking the absorption of cholesterol — which comes from your diet, and is also produced by your liver — in the small intestine.
This makes the liver remove more harmful low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol from circulation, thereby helping to maintain healthy cholesterol. Plant sterols themselves are poorly absorbed and are excreted as waste.
Legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds are a great source of plant sterols. They are also present in small quantities in fruit and vegetables.
The link between raised blood cholesterol levels, especially LDL cholesterol, and the increased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) is well documented.
“As a general principle, patients should check with their doctors if their cholesterol levels need to be reduced. If so, clinical studies show that statins are the most effective way to reduce cardiovascular risk,” says cardiologist Dr Low Lip Ping.
Healthy cholesterol with plant sterols
“As indicated by the FDA in the United States, there is substantial data indicating that when consumed in the range of 1g to 3g in enriched foods, plant sterols can improve blood LDL by a reduction of 5 to 15 per cent relative to placebo,” says Dr Low. “The gut absorbs 50 per cent of total cholesterol.”
But the average intake of plant sterols from natural sources is too low to produce clinically significant changes in cholesterol levels.
Another alternative is to consider sterol-fortified nutritional supplements such as Centrum Cardio. Two tablets contain 1g of plant sterols to maintain healthy cholesterol; Vitamin B6, B12 and folic acid to support heart health; and antioxidants of vitamins C and E to protect cells against free radical damage.
Centrum Cardio is complete from A to Zinc with 25 essential vitamins and minerals.
According to nutritionist Louisa Zhang, plant sterols should be taken twice a day with meals or snacks to be more effective to support healthy cholesterol level.
“You can also reduce your cholesterol levels and cardiovascular risk if you eat a healthy, balanced diet and take part in physical activities regularly,” she says.
Dr Low says: “Plant sterols may be added for those whose cholesterol levels are still above the target levels despite optimal doses of statins, or who have had an adverse reaction to the medication that has forced them to stop taking it, or in patients who for various individual reasons do not wish to take medication.
“But these patients should still be advised to maintain an appropriate diet and to exercise if they are able to do so.
“However, plant sterols do not replace cholesterol lowering medication that
has been prescribed. Patients already on cholesterol lowering medication should consult their doctors for advice about diet and whether plant sterol enriched foods may provide any additional benefits.”
Ms Zhang adds: “Remember to include daily servings of orange and yellow fruit and vegetables such as carrots, pumpkins and sweet potatoes in your diet. While nuts and seeds are good sources of plant sterols, moderate your intake due to their high calorie count.”