Original paper

Randomized controlled trial of the effect of phytosterols-enriched low-fat milk on lipid profile in Chinese

  • A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial showed that phytosterol- enriched low-fat milk consumption led to a significant reduction in total and LDL-cholesterol
  • Daily intake of 1.5 g phytosterols for 3 weeks lowered LDL-cholesterol by 9.5%; diastolic blood pressure was also lowered with phytosterol intake
  • Milk consumption was generally well tolerated and only mild gastrointestinal side-effects occurred which did not reduce the cholesterol lowering effect of phytosterols
  • Low calcium intake and osteoporosis are common problems in Asian people and hence the milk with added phytosterols is therefore also useful for providing a daily source of calcium


Researchers in Hong Kong randomised 221 non-diabetic southern Chinese participants aged 24-79 years to receive either phytosterol-enriched low-fat milk (1.5 g of phytosterols daily) or a conventional low-fat-milk for a three-week period. The participants were not on any cholesterol lowering medication.

They found that in comparison with the standard low-fat milk those receiving the phytosterol-enriched milk had a significant reduction in serum LDL-cholesterol of 0.265 mmol/L or 9.5% (p<0.0001). Total cholesterol was also significantly lowered (p<0.0001, while HDL-cholesterol and triglycerides were not affected. Interestingly, diastolic (but nor systolic) blood pressure was also lower with phytosterols p<0.01.

The Chinese population has a high prevalence of lactose intolerance when compared to Caucasians. However, despite 30% of study participants experiencing at least one adverse event, e.g. diarrhoea and flatulence this did not affect the LDL-cholesterol lowering effect of the phytosterol added milk in this study group.

This is further evidence showing that phytosterols can reduce blood cholesterol also in the Chinese population. This finding is significant as the traditional diet of the Chinese population is characterised by a high intake of plant-based food and more moderate consumption of animal products.

Low calcium intake and osteoporosis are common in Asian populations. This study further showed that low-fat milk with added phytosterols not only lowered cholesterol, but also provides an important daily source of calcium and protein.