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Dr. Andrew Rynne

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What are the benefits of phytosterols on lowering LDL cholesterol?

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Dr. Benard Shehu

Cardiologist

Practicing since :2004

Answered : 2254 Questions

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Posted on Wed, 20 Aug 2014 in Hypertension and Heart Disease
Question: What's current research on phytosterols? I take 800mg as part of my regimen in my 2g (EPA+DHA) fish oil supplement. I've read mostly beneficial things about them as far as lowering LDL cholesterol.

However, I've also read they could be a risk factor for valve heart stenosis in a slightly older (2008/2009) study:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/0000.htm

I've also read they could potentially block other nutrients.

What is current research on this? Would you consider phytosterols helpful or harmful in the amounts I'm taking?

Thanks!
doctor
Answered by Dr. Benard Shehu 6 hours later
Brief Answer:
Should follow the golden rule: "BALANCE"...

Detailed Answer:
Hi XXXXXXX

Please bare in mind that everything comes to a balance in our life. So, what you eat or what we take should follow the "balance" rule. Otherwise, everything that is taken in excessiveness or is lacking would cause health problems.

What you have read (the article) is one of the conclusions of the study carried out in 2008. Usually, the general guidelines prescribed for patients are based on the conclusions of various studies and not only on 1 study.

Therefore, I need to run a deep research and write my opinion in a paper about the benefits or risks of phytosterol.

One thing is given for sure: "BALANCE".

If no balance, problems will come.

With regards to phytosterols you are taking, if your diet contains foods rich in phytosterol naturally (not artificially added); then, I think, that is enough. You can take supplementation from time in time, but not advised to take them continuously.

Hope it answered to your queries! Let me know if anything unclear!
Dr.Benard
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Vinay Bhardwaj
doctor
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Follow up: Dr. Benard Shehu 6 hours later
Hi and thanks for your help!

I certainly agree with you on balance, which is something I'm trying to achieve in both diet and supplement regimen.

I do certainly see there are other studies. For example, a 2013 study actually found phytosterols likely helpful if you don't have a disorder such as sitosterolemia (which I'd assume I'd already know if I did due to symptoms, correct?):
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/0000

Another meta-analysis found no reliable correlation:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/0000

I don't eat or drink anything fortified with additional phytosterols, but I do try to eat natural nuts, veggies, fruits, etc. My diet varies a great deal day to day, so I have no idea the amount of daily phytosterols I'd be consuming naturally.

As I mentioned, the fish oil has 800mg daily of them, and I know they say less than 3g is generally considered safe, so I'm well under that either way, but I don't want to cause possible long-term harm either.

In your opinion, given all the evidence so far, not just singular studies, at 800mg a day plus any I get from food, would I be better off switching to a fish oil without phytosterols, or sticking with the product I'm on to reap possible benefits?
I should note that when I added this supplement, my cholesterol number were a little high, and they have come down, but that's among a myriad of dietary changes, so nothing's saying phytosterols are the reason.

Thanks!
doctor
Answered by Dr. Benard Shehu 35 hours later
Brief Answer:
Fish oil supplement to be used in winter/autumn...

Detailed Answer:
Hi back XXXXXXX

I like your "keeping a natural balance" thinking.

Now, to my opinion, what you take as supplement should be according to food portions. In other words, during the autumn or winter, less phytosterol foods can be consumed as fresh (organic); therefore, you can use 800 mg of fish oil supplement plus diet.

While, during the summer, you can increase consumption of foods high in phytosterol instead of taking supplements.


Please bare in mind that there are 2 main sources of cholesterol:
- endogenous (produced by our body, liver)
- exogenous (absorption from foods consumed)

Phytosterols do inhibit cholesterol uptake from the guts, thus, can reduce the amount of cholesterol deriving from your diet.

Hope it answered to your queries!
Dr.Benard
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Vaishalee Punj
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