IHN Database

Plants sterols + exercise improve cholesterol profile

MONTREAL, CANADA. It is well known that regular exercise increases the blood level of beneficial HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. There is now also substantial evidence that plant sterols reduce overall cholesterol level and, in particular, the level of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. Margarines incorporating plant sterols are available for use in the prevention of heart disease.

Researchers at McGill University now report that combining an increased intake of plant sterols with regular endurance exercise results in a much improved cholesterol profile with lower triglycerides, total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, and a significant increase in HDL cholesterol. Their clinical trial involved 74 sedentary, non-smoking individuals between the ages of 40 and 70 years with an average total cholesterol level above 175 (4.5 mmol/L) and no heart disease or diabetes. The participants were randomly assigned into one of four groups:

  • Group 1: Control group – remained sedentary and consumed 22 g/day of margarine not fortified with sterols
  • Group 2: Exercise group – exercised 3 times a week on stair-stepping machines and stationary bicycles to eventually reach 75% of maximum heart rate (after 6 weeks). They also consumed 22 g/day of non- fortified margarine
  • Group 3: Sterol group – remained sedentary, but consumed 22 g/day of a sterol-fortified margarine providing 1.8 g/day of plant sterols of which 46% was beta-sitosterol
  • Group 4: Combination group – combined exercise program with the consumption of sterol-fortified margarine.

At the end of the 8-week trial period, the total cholesterol concentration (after correcting for changes in the control group) had decreased by 7.1% in the sterol group, by 5.4% in the combination group, but increased by 2.1% in the exercise only group. LDL cholesterol declined by 11.3% in the sterol group, by 5.9% in the combination group, but increased by 6.9% in the exercise group. HDL cholesterol increased by 5.8% in the sterol group, by 9.2% in the combination group, and by 11.2% in the exercise group. Triglycerides decreased by 1.3% in the sterol group, by 9.7% in the combination group, and by 14.5% in the exercise group. Blood levels of beta-sitosterol increased by 27.0% in the sterol group, by 20.1% in the combination group, and by 3.9% in the exercise group. The researchers conclude that a regimen combining plant sterols with endurance exercise results in the most favourable changes in cholesterol profile.
Varady, KA, et al. Plant sterols and endurance training combine to favorably alter plasma lipid profiles in previously sedentary hypercholesterolemic adults after 8 weeks. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 80, November 2004, pp. 1159-66

Editor's comment: Beta-sitosterol is also readily available as a supplement.

category search
Keyword Search

copyright notice