Plant sterols to lower cholesterol have risks

Plant sterols have been touted as an effective way to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. However, a research study in the July JLR has uncovered that these compounds do have their own risks, as they can accumulate in heart valves and lead to stenosis.

Aortic valve stenosis (AS) results from cholesterol accumulation in the valve between the left ventricle and aorta; this impedes the flow of blood and puts extra pressure on the heart. About 2% of individuals over 65 (and over 5% of those over 85) have AS, and as the population ages, it is becoming an increasing problem.

Plant sterols can block the absorption of dietary cholesterol into the body, and as such high vegetable diets and/or plant sterol supplements are often used to alleviate high cholesterol. However, although plant sterols themselves are poorly absorbed, they can enter the body, so Satu Helske and colleagues examined whether plant sterols can also accumulate in aortic valves.

They collected blood samples from 82 patients with severe AS and aortic valves from 21 individuals undergoing valve surgery, along with respective controls. They observed that non-cholesterol sterols, including plant sterols, can accumulate in aortic valves, and at levels that directly related to their blood concentration.

These findings suggest that beneficial plant sterols may end up becoming a risk factor for AS, although the researchers will need to conduct more studies, such as whether dietary sterols and sterol supplements produce different effects.

Posted in: Drug Trial News

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  1. John Brunsden John Brunsden Australia says:

    Several months ago I started bicycle exercise. I experienced chest tightness & a mild sensation in the left armpit for the first 30 minutes which left me for the remainder of the 1 hour exercise. My doctor sent me for E.C.G. which was erratic. I had a plethera of tests following including Ultrasound Echo, Wearing a "Holter" recorder for a day, & visits to a cardiac specialist. I have known since 2003 that I have had Hypertrophy Cardio Myopathy for my life.(That's the reason for the ECG results.) The fact is that I noticed that when I had less margarine @ breakfast,(I had used sterol margarine for years), the discomfort was less. I stopped using margarine with sterols (I have replaced it with olive based margarine)& the symptoms have continued to reduce to the point where they have virtually stopped. (About the last month). The tests I had which alarmed the medicos at first have since cleared me of any immediate danger & exercise has resumed. I am convinced that the "cholesterol lowering margarine" was the direct cause of the symptoms that subsequently caused a lot of concern,time & expense.

    John Brunsden.

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