There are many nutrients that are thought to be good for the heart.
Among them, phytosterols are the most well-known substance. It is often added to margarine and dairy products.
The cholesterol-lowering effect of this substance has been widely recognized.
However, when viewed from a scientific perspective, we discovered some serious problems.
What is phytosterol?
Phytosterols, or plant sterols, are a group of molecules that have a chemical structure similar to cholesterol.
They are found in plant cell membranes. Here these substances play an important role like cholesterol in the human body.
The most common phytosterol in human diet is campesterol, sitosterol and stigmasterol. There are also molecules called stanol Plants are similar.
This chart shows the difference between cholesterol and .
Although we have evolved to be able to use both types of sterols, the human body definitely prioritizes cholesterol .
People actually have two enzymes called designed to control which sterols are allowed to enter the body from the intestine. Only a small amount of phytosterols can enter, while about 55% of cholesterol is always entered .
Conclude: Phytosterol is a substance found in plants that plays a similar role to cholesterol in animals. They have the same molecular structure, but are metabolized differently.
Oil and margarine contain a lot of phytosterols
Many healthy plant foods contain significant amounts of phytosterols.
Many argue that the stone hunter-gatherers consumed a large amount of phytosterols, because they ate a lot of plants .
But if compared to the modern diet, this is not entirely true.
Vegetable oil actually contains a lot of phytosterols. Because these oils are added Many types of processed foods, so the total amount of human phytosterol absorbed today is probably greater than ever .
Grains also contain a small amount of phytosterols and may become a major source of phytosterols for people who eat a lot of grain .
Phytosterols are also added to some other processed foods, especially Margarine , and then it is advertised as being able to "lower cholesterol" and help prevent heart disease.
Conclude: The current dietary phytosterol content is greater than ever, mainly from the high consumption of vegetable oils.
Phytosterols can lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, but is this really important?
A noted fact is that phytosterols can lower cholesterol levels.
Eating 2-3 grams of phytosterol daily for 3-4 weeks can reduce about 10% of LDL cholesterol
They are especially effective for people with high cholesterol, whether they take statin cholesterol-lowering drugs
It is thought that these substances are effective by taking enzymes of intestinal cholesterol, thereby preventing cholesterol from being absorbed .
However, you should remember that cholesterol content is only one risk factor of heart disease.
A substance that positively affects the risk factor for disease does not mean it can prevent the disease.
Conclude: Phytosterols can lower LDL cholesterol levels by about 10% by reducing absorption of intestinal cholesterol. However, cholesterol levels are just a risk factor, not a real disease.
Phytosterol may increase the risk of heart attack
Many people believe that phytosterols can prevent heart attacks, because they reduce cholesterol.
However, there has not been a single study that actually demonstrated that phytosterols can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke or death.
In fact, many studies have proven the opposite, that this substance can do increase risks of diseases.
Many observational studies in humans have shown a link between high levels of phytosterol absorption and increased risk of cardiovascular disease .
In addition, among the heart disease survivors in Scandinavian simvastatin, those with high levels of phytosterols in the blood are the most at risk for heart attacks .
In another study of men with heart disease, a small group of men at highest risk of heart attack had a three-fold increased risk if they had high blood levels of phytosterol .
There are also studies in rodent mice and mice that show that phytosterols increase plaque build up in arteries, cause stroke and shorten life .
Although many health agencies such as the American Heart Association still recommend using phytosterols to improve cardiovascular health, other organizations object.
For example, the German Pharmaceutical Commission, the French Food Standards Agency (ANSES) and the United Kingdom's National Institutes of Health and Care (NICE) recommend that phytosterols should not be used to prevent heart disease .
There is also a rare genetic condition called phytosterolemia or is when the patient absorbs a large amount of phytosterols into the blood.
These people are at serious risk of heart disease and liver problems.
Conclude: Although phytosterols reduce cholesterol, many studies in both animals and humans have shown that it may increase the risk of heart attack.
Phytosterols can fight cancer
There is also some evidence that phytosterols may reduce the risk of cancer.
Human studies show that people who eat a lot of phytosterols have a lower risk of developing stomach cancer, lung cancer, breast and ovarian cancer .
In addition, a number of animal studies have shown that phytosterols may have anti-cancer properties, which help slow the growth and spread of tumors .
However, the only studies on supporters of this conclusion are observational studies. These types of studies are only suggestive, but cannot provide proof of authenticity.
Plant foods are very healthy, but added phytosterols are a disaster
For centuries, phytosterols have become part of the human diet because it is found in vegetables, fruits, legumes and other plant foods.
However, today's modern diet contains non-natural caophytosterols, mainly from refined vegetable oils and phytosterol-fortified foods.
Eating a lot of phytosterols is thought to be good for the cardiovascular system, but the evidence suggests it cause disease rather than prevention.
Although it is good to absorb natural phytosterols from fresh plants, you should still avoid supplements and phytosterol-fortified foods.