Cancer Screening

April 2009


Lowering cholesterol

A review on the role of plant sterols

Volume 38, No.4, April 2009 Pages 218-221

Peter Clifton


Plant sterols are an important but underused dietary component in the treatment of elevated blood cholesterol.


This review discusses the background to plant sterol use and reviews evidence about its use in clinical practice.


When consumed in the recommended amounts, sterols alone decrease low density lipoprotein cholesterol; in combination with other dietary changes, low density lipoprotein can be further lowered. Most patients, whether they are on cholesterol lowering drugs or not, would benefit from using plant sterols, which are now available in milk and yoghurt as well as spreads. In animal models, plant sterols have been shown to reduce atherosclerosis despite an elevation in the blood level, however there is no hard end point data for this in humans.

Plant sterols are plant compounds that perform similar biological functions to cholesterol, and contain a similar chemical structure. They differ from cholesterol only because of the presence of either an extra methyl or ethyl group, or another double bond in the side chain. Absorption efficiency for plant sterols in humans (2–5%) is considerably less than that of cholesterol (60%), except for those with the very rare condition of sitosterolemia.1 Consequently, plant sterol levels in plasma are less than one thousandth of cholesterol levels.2

Download the PDF for the full article.


Yes     No

Declaration of competing interests *

Yes No

Additional Author (remove)

Yes No






Competing Interests: 

Your comment is being submitted, please wait


Download citation in RIS format (EndNote, Zotero, RefMan, RefWorks)

Download citation in BIBTEX format (RefMan)

Download citation in REFER format (EndNote, Zotero, RefMan, RefWorks)

For more information see Wikipedia: Comparison of reference management software