Plant Stanol-ester enriched foods diet can cut heart disease risk

December 22, 2009

Plant Stanol ester-enriched foods (the twin of plant sterol esters) could reduce cardiovascular diseases (CVD) risk especially for consumers not following a Mediterranean-style diet, claims a new study from Greece . The study shows that a diet including plant Stanol-ester enriched foods and a Mediterranean diet rich in fruits and vegetables, vegetable oil, legumes, whole grains, fish, and low-fat dairy products are equally effective in reducing the estimated risk of CVD. A coronary heart disease risk reduction health claim for plant Stanol ester was recently accepted by the EU Commission.

The results of this study, which was conducted at the Aristotelian University in Thessaloniki, further strengthen the role of the Mediterranean diet but the researchers claim that adherence to this type of diet is decreasing even in countries like Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal, and as a result, claim the researchers, another viable option for CVD reduction might be plant Stanol ester-based foods..

The research team enrolled 150 participants with mildly elevated cholesterol levels who participated in the four month long intervention. They were randomized to a Mediterranean-style diet, a diet containing plant Stanol esters (2 grams a day) or a placebo spread. Vascular risk factors were assessed every month for 4 months and the estimated CVD risk was calculated by three different risk engines including PROCAM, Framingham , and Reynolds risk engines, said the authors.

The results showed that the Mediterranean-style diet gradually reduced the levels of several risk factors of CVD, including total and LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure. These moderate but significant changes resulted in a significant 24 to 32 per cent reduction in the estimated CVD risk, found the researchers.

Comparatively, the plant Stanol ester-containing diet induced a fast and substantial reduction in total and LDL cholesterol resulting in a 26 to 30 per cent reduction in the estimated CVD risk already after one month, reported the researchers. The study is published online ahead of print in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases.