Original paper

Cholesterol lowering efficacy of plant stanol ester in a new type of product matrix, a chewable dietary supplement

  • A new study shows that a chewable food supplement with added plant stanol esters can be used to help reduce elevated blood cholesterol levels
  • Plant stanols work by reducing the absorption of cholesterol from the gut by displacing cholesterol from the mixed micelles (vehicles that carry fat, bile and cholesterol) in the gut
  • The new chewable food supplement is easy to use and no side effects were reported

Researchers in Finland have studied a new format of a supplement with added plant stanols for blood cholesterol management.

A new, sugar-free chewable and easy to swallow food supplement with added plant stanols was studied in a recent randomized, double-blind, controlled trial with results showing that it is both easy to use and effective in reducing serum total and LDL cholesterol.

This chewable supplement is based upon emulsified plant stanol esters in a gelled water matrix that allows effective release of the plant stanol esters from the product matrix and enables it to mix with emulsified fat in the stomach. In order to displace cholesterol from mixed micelles in the gut, plant stanol esters are hydrolysed by enzymes in the gut into free plant stanols. Release of bile in the upper part of the small intestine triggered by a meal is required allowing free plant stanols to displace cholesterol from the formed mixed micelles in the gut, the underlying mechanism involved in inhibiting cholesterol absorption. This process requires the plant stanol supplement to be consumed with a meal in order to be effective.

The study recruited 131 moderately hypercholesterolemic volunteers and randomised 110 of them into two study groups. The participants were asked to consume four pieces of the test supplement each day, a dose of 2g plant stanols for those in the active arm, consumed at two meals.  The participants kept a  diary on the intake of the test supplements including any symptoms.

The results showed that after four weeks of taking the supplement LDL cholesterol concentration was reduced by an average of 7.6% when compared with the control group. Total serum cholesterol was lowered by 4.9% and non-HDL cholesterol by 6.6%. HDL cholesterol and serum triacylglycerol remained unchanged.

No side effects were reported and 78% of the responders rated it easy or very easy to use this supplement. The taste of the supplement was described as good or very good by 68% of the participants making it a practical as well as a convenient solution for long term use.

This study is important because it supports the cholesterol-lowering benefit of plant stanols administered in the format of a newly developed chewable and easy to swallow food supplement. Furthermore, this new study supports the overall available evidence that food supplements with added plant stanols/sterols can play a role in lowering elevated serum cholesterol concentrations.