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Hong Kong Adventist Hospital – Tsuen Wan,
199 Tsuen King Circuit, Tsuen Wan, N.T.
(852) 2275 6767

Plant stanols or plant sterols (phytosterols) are groups of compounds that naturally occur in small amounts of plant based foods such as corn, wheat, rye, vegetable oil, nuts and seeds. Since they have similar structures to cholesterol, phytosterols work by reducing the absorption of both dietary and biliary cholesterol from the digestive tract into the blood. These cholesterols are then lost through feces and therefore lower cholesterol level. 


Studies suggest that an intake of 1.5 - 2.4 grams of phytosterols reduces total cholesterol levels as well as LDL-cholesterol, which is considered “bad cholesterol”, by an average of 7 -10% within two to three weeks. However, discontinuation of the products will result in the loss of potential benefits.


Several institutions such as the International and European Atherosclerosis Society* suggest an average of 2 grams daily yet it is not possible to obtain enough phytosterols from the foods we consume to achieve this effect. Most diets provide only about 300 milligrams of phytosterols per day while vegetarian diets may provide a little more. There is a range of foods that have been fortified with phytosterols and may facilitate in achieving the desirable amount to help with lowering cholesterol. These include fortified dairy foods such as yogurt drinks and spreads.


Phytosterols are safe to use in combination with, or in addition to some cholesterol-lowering medications. These medications can help in doubling the effect of lowering cholesterol levels due to their differences in the mechanism of lowering cholesterol in the body. However, not all medications are as effective when taken with added phytosterols in the diet since the medication may not have the extra effect of reducing cholesterol. Overconsumption of phytosterols may also affect the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. It is advised to consult your physician or dietitian to learn more about increasing phytosterols in your diet.


Table I. Foods that contain phytoster

FoodServingPhytosterols (mg)
Wheat germ ½ cup (57 g) 197
Rice bran oil 1 tablespoon (14 g) 162
Sesame oil 1 tablespoon (14 g) 118
Corn oil 1 tablespoon (14 g) 102
Canola oil 1 tablespoon (14 g) 92
Peanuts 1 ounce (28 g) 62
Wheat bran ½ cup (29 g) 58
Almonds 1 ounce (28 g) 39
Brussels sprouts ½ cup (78 g) 34
Rye bread 2 slices (64 g) 33
Macadamia nuts 1 ounce (28 g) 33
Olive oil 1 tablespoon (14 g) 22
Asparagus ½ cup (67 g) 16
Lettuce 1 cup (18 g)  7





*Full report: