Reduction of serum cholesterol decreases mortality in primary and especially in secondary prevention. We investigated how effectively postmenopausal women with a previous myocardial infarction reduced their serum cholesterol with dietary means by using sitostanol ester rapeseed oil margarine, alone and in combination with statins, and to what extent cholesterol metabolism was affected.
Methods and Results
The first study group consisted of 22 randomly chosen women with angiographically documented coronary artery disease. Baseline studies on home diet were followed by double-blind, randomized, cross-over studies on margarine without and with sitostanol (3 g/d) ester for 7 weeks in random order. A second group of 10 women on simvastatin consumed sitostanol ester margarine for 12 weeks. Sitostanol ester margarine lowered serum total cholesterol by 13% (
<.05) and LDL cholesterol by 20% (
<.01). Sitostanol ester margarine reduced total cholesterol in all patients, LDL cholesterol <2.6 mmol/L (<100 mg/dL) in 32%, and <3.4 mmol/L (<133 mg/dL) in 73% versus none and 27% during the home diet (
<.01 for both). Combined with simvastatin, sitostanol still reduced total and LDL cholesterol by 11±3% and 16±5% (
<.01 for both). Sitostanol reduced absorption (−45%), increased fecal elimination (+45% as neutral sterols), and stimulated synthesis (+39%) of cholesterol. High cholestanol and plant sterol (high cholesterol absorption) and low baseline precursor sterol proportions (low cholesterol synthesis) predicted high decreases in serum cholesterol.
Dietary use of sitostanol ester margarine normalizes LDL cholesterol in about one third of women with previous myocardial infarction, especially in those with high baseline absorption and low synthesis of cholesterol, and in combination with statins reduces the needed drug dose.