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Clinical Articles, News & Views

Phytosterols to lower LDL cholesterol

Evidence for the cholesterol lowering benefits of phytosterols has been supported by the panel of experts that reviews Disease Risk Reduction Claims (DRRC) for foods in the European Union.1

Unilever submitted a scientific dossier to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to support a new claim that “a dose range of 1.5–3 g/d of plant sterols and plant stanols can lower LDL cholesterol by 7–12%”.

EFSA’s Panel on Dietetic Products Nutrition and Allergies reviewed the data and concluded that: “plant sterols and stanol esters at a daily intake of 3 g (range 2.6–3.4 g) in matrices approved by Regulation (EC) No 376/2010 (yellow fat spreads, dairy products, mayonnaise and salad dressings) lower LDL-cholesterol by 11.3% (95% CI: 10.0–12.5)”.

Unilever must wait for the opinion to be ratified by the European Commission, EU Member States and European Parliament before its plant sterol containing brand (Flora pro.activ) can start using the new claim in communication.

The benefits of functional foods containing plant stanols or plant sterols (2 g/d) have also been supported by new European Guidelines on Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) Prevention,2 published recently by the European Society of Cardiology (ESC). Such foods effectively lower LDL cholesterol by on average 10%, an effect which is additive to the effects of a healthy diet or statin medication, the guidelines say.


1. EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA). Scientific Opinion on the substantiation of a health claim related to 3 g/day plant stanols as plant stanol esters and lowering blood LDL-cholesterol and reduced risk of (coronary) heart disease pursuant to Article 14 of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006. EFSA Journal 2012;10:2692.

2. Perk J, De Backer G, Gohlke H, et al. European Guidelines on cardiovascular disease prevention in clinical practice (version 2012). Eur Heart J 2012;33:1635–701.

Published on: August 24, 2012

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