Plant sterols and sterolins: a review of their immune-modulating properties

Altern Med Rev. 1999 Jun;4(3):170-7.


Beta-sitosterol (BSS) and its glycoside (BSSG) are sterol molecules which are synthesized by plants. When humans eat plant foods phytosterols are ingested, and are found in the serum and tissues of healthy individuals, but at concentrations orders of magnitude lower than endogenous cholesterol. Epidemiological studies have correlated a reduced risk of numerous diseases with a diet high in fruits and vegetables, and have concluded that specific molecules, including b-carotene, tocopherols, vitamin C, and flavonoids, confer some of this protective benefit. However, these epidemiologic studies have not examined the potential effect that phytosterols ingested with fruits and vegetables might have on disease risk reduction. In animals, BSS and BSSG have been shown to exhibit anti-inflammatory, anti-neoplastic, anti-pyretic, and immune-modulating activity. A proprietary BSS:BSSG mixture has demonstrated promising results in a number of studies, including in vitro studies, animal models, and human clinical trials. This phytosterol complex seems to target specific T-helper lymphocytes, the Th1 and Th2 cells, helping normalize their functioning and resulting in improved T-lymphocyte and natural killer cell activity. A dampening effect on overactive antibody responses has also been seen, as well as normalization of the DHEA:cortisol ratio. The re-establishment of these immune parameters may be of help in numerous disease processes relating to chronic immune-mediated abnormalities, including chronic viral infections, tuberculosis, rheumatoid arthritis, allergies, cancer, and auto-immune diseases.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / therapeutic use*
  • Animals
  • Cats
  • HIV Infections / therapy
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance / drug effects
  • Sitosterols / immunology*
  • Sitosterols / therapeutic use
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / therapy


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Sitosterols
  • gamma-sitosterol
  • lyoniside