What are Plant Sterols?
They are natural substances present in foods such as legumes, fruits, and vegetables. You could say that they are like the ‘cholesterol’ of vegetables, because their molecular structure is very similar to that of cholesterol, and just like it, they perform a structural function in the organisms that contain them.
What makes plant sterols so beneficial is that their components block the absorption of both endogenous cholesterol (produced by your liver) and exogenous cholesterol (coming from animal source foods) in your intestine. That is how they help control cholesterol levels in your body and contribute to the prevention of cardiovascular disease and other conditions caused by metabolic deviations.
Various meta-analyses report that a daily consumption of 2 grams of phytosterols reduces LDL cholesterol between 10 and 15% (Demonty, 2009; AbuMweis, 2008; Ras, 2013). Suggested cholesterol-lowering mechanisms are (De Smet, 2012): inhibiting cholesterol absorption in the enterocyte, inhibiting its re-esterification and thus avoiding its incorporation into lipoproteins and expelling unesterified cholesterol back to the intestinal lumen.
Due to the chemical structure and the low solubility of plant sterols, they must be formulated correctly in order to obtain optimum health benefits. Traditionally, this has been done by esterification with fatty acids of vegetable origin which allow higher solubility in fats, and they are later incorporated into margarine, milk, or yogurt.
After several years of research, NUTRARTIS created CARDIOSMILE, the first product to incorporate 2 grams of fat-free plant sterols. This is achieved by reducing plant sterol particles to a submicron size (500 nm average), which enable particles to remain dispersed in water in a stable manner with minimum use of surfactants.