Plant sterols and cholesterol
An Australian review paper, recently published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine, has suggested plant sterol-enriched margarines may not be as effective as cholesterol-reducing medications in lowering blood cholesterol. These research findings have been reported on popular Australian television program, A Current Affair.
The Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) believes there is no ‘silver bullet’ for reducing cholesterol levels. The key is a well-balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle, and in some cases medication. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. DAA recommends individuals discuss how best to manage cholesterol levels and reduce risk of heart disease with a doctor and an Accredited Practising Dietitian.
There is good evidence that plant sterols play an important role, as part of a healthy diet, in helping to lower cholesterol. Scientific evidence from a number of studies suggests consuming plant sterols daily can lower LDL (bad) cholesterol by an average of 10 per cent. In Australia, plant sterols are permitted to be added to margarine, low-fat milk, low-fat yoghurt and breakfast cereals.
For people who do not eat plant sterol-enriched foods, there are many other simple dietary strategies that can be effective in lowering cholesterol levels. Choosing healthy unsaturated fats (from foods like oily fish, nuts, avocados and some vegetable oils), limiting saturated fats, and eating an adequate amount of soluble fibre and soy protein is a good place to start.
More information can be accessed on the Heart Foundation website.