A healthy diet rich in carotenoids is effective in maintaining normal blood carotenoid levels during the daily use of plant sterol-enriched spreads

Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2002 Jan;72(1):32-9. doi: 10.1024/0300-9831.72.1.32.


Blood cholesterol levels are affected by diet and in particular by the type and amount of fat intake. In recent years, vegetable oil spreads containing plant sterols/stanols (as their fatty acid esters) have been developed. Numerous clinical trials on spreads with added plant sterols/stanols have shown that they have much greater cholesterol-lowering properties than conventional vegetable oil spreads. Plant sterols decrease both dietary and biliary cholesterol absorption in the small intestine, with a consequential increase in excretion of cholesterol. It is also recognized that plant sterol/stanol-enriched, cholesterol-lowering spreads, if consumed regularly, may induce a 10-20% decrease in plasma carotenoids, adjusted for changes in plasma lipids. A 10-20% decrease in plasma carotenoids falls well within the seasonal variation observed in individuals. Our current understanding of the physiological functions of carotenoids does not indicate any health risk associated with the slight decrease in their blood levels due to the intake of plant sterol/stanol. The questions that have been raised, though, are how plant sterols/stanols affect plasma carotenoid levels, and in addition, what quantity of fruits and vegetables (the richest dietary sources of carotenoids) would have to be consumed to improve plasma carotenoid levels? The current mini-review covers the cholesterol-lowering effect of plant sterols, their mechanisms of action and effect on blood carotenoids, and concludes with the potential heath benefits of daily intake of plant sterol-enriched spreads.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anticholesteremic Agents / metabolism
  • Anticholesteremic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antioxidants / administration & dosage
  • Carotenoids / administration & dosage
  • Carotenoids / blood*
  • Cholesterol / blood*
  • Cholesterol, LDL / blood
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Fats / metabolism
  • Dietary Fats / pharmacokinetics
  • Fruit
  • Humans
  • Hypercholesterolemia / diet therapy*
  • Phytosterols / administration & dosage
  • Phytosterols / metabolism
  • Phytosterols / therapeutic use*
  • Phytotherapy
  • Sitosterols / administration & dosage
  • Vegetables


  • Anticholesteremic Agents
  • Antioxidants
  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • Dietary Fats
  • Phytosterols
  • Sitosterols
  • plant stanol ester
  • Carotenoids
  • Cholesterol