The Benefits of Plant Sterols
Plant sterols occur naturally in grains, vegetables and legumes, positively affects your cholesterol balance & prevents absorption of bad cholesterol
What are Plant Sterols?
Plant sterols and stanols are phytosterols which are a group of plant chemicals that occur naturally in small amounts within grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds. Phytosterols are derived from plant oils and is similar to cholesterol which is derived from animal fats. Due to this similarity, it is believed plant sterols can have a positive impact on bad cholesterol levels within your body.
Plant Sterols and Cholesterol
Cholesterol can often have negative associations for many of us. Cholesterol is a fatty substance which your liver produces from certain fats within your diet. Cholesterol plays an important role in the growth and maintenance of healthy cell membranes, growth hormones and stomach bile acids. As such, a certain amount of cholesterol is vital for good health.
You may often hear the terms HDL or LDL cholesterol. High density level (HDL) cholesterol is known as the ‘good’ cholesterol whilst low density level (LDL) cholesterol is referred to as the ‘bad’ cholesterol. This classification is simply to do with how our bodies react to cholesterol within the blood stream.
When LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream is increased, it undergoes a chemical reaction known as oxidation. Over time as this process continues the artery wall lining begins to thicken, harden and restrict blood flow.
HDL cholesterol on the other hand isn’t oxidised. It also carries LDL cholesterol back to the liver before it can be oxidised and lead to potential health problems.
How do Plant Sterols Help?
Plant sterols significantly inhibit cholesterol absorption and have been seen to lower LDL cholesterol levels by between 8 and 10%.
When passing through the digestive tract plant sterols block the absorption of LDL cholesterol through the intestinal wall. The reduced amount of LDL cholesterol present in the body leads to a positive ratio between good and bad cholesterol.
Who Can Benefit from Plant Sterols?
Whilst it cannot be guaranteed that the use of plant sterols will reverse the damage and impact caused by high levels of bad cholesterol in the body, they can help reduce high levels of bad cholesterol before they can cause more damage. Plant sterols are not the sole preventative measure to avoid the risk factors associated with high levels of bad cholesterol. Rather, they can be included in a healthy lifestyle to help maintain and ensure a healthy productive balance of both types of cholesterol.