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Complementary Medicine

Are Beta Sitosterol Tablets Safe to Take and Do They Lower Cholesterol?

06/15/2004

Question:

Are Beta Sitosterol tablets safe to take and do they lower cholesterol?

Answer:

Sitosterols and sitostanols are plant sterols which interfere with the body`s ability to absorb cholesterol.  There is a mild to moderate effect on LDL and total cholesterol.  They have been incorporated into more and more margarines, oils, and spreads over the last 5 years.  Incorporating such margarines into the diet of people with high cholesterol seems to double the effect of taking statin drugs concurrently.  One possible concern is that these sterols can interfere with the absorption of other nutrients, such as carotenoids which have antioxidant effects in the body.  The jury is still out as to whether this is clinically significant.

So, yes, they can lower cholesterol between 10 and 20%.  They appear to be safe, but long term effects of interfering with the absorption of other nutrients is unknown.

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Response by:

Tanya I Edwards, MD, MEd Tanya I Edwards, MD, MEd
Formerly, Associate Professor of Medicine
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University