Stigmasterol reduces plasma cholesterol levels and inhibits hepatic synthesis and intestinal absorption in the rat

Metabolism. 2006 Mar;55(3):292-9. doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2005.08.024.


Plant sterols compete with cholesterol (cholest-5-en-3beta-ol) for intestinal absorption to limit absorption and lower plasma concentrations of cholesterol. Stigmasterol (24-ethyl-cholesta-5,22-dien-3beta-ol; Delta(22) derivative of sitosterol [24-ethyl-cholest-5-en-3beta-ol]), but not campesterol (24-methyl-cholest-5-en-3beta-ol) and sitosterol, is reported to inhibit cholesterol biosynthesis via inhibition of sterol Delta(24)-reductase in human Caco-2 and HL-60 cell lines. We studied the effect of feeding 0.5% stigmasterol on plasma and liver sterols and intestinal cholesterol and sitosterol absorption in 12 wild-type Kyoto (WKY) and 12 Wistar rats. After 3 weeks of feeding, cholesterol and sitosterol absorption was determined in 6 rats from each group by plasma dual-isotope ratio method. After 3 more weeks, plasma and hepatic sterols and hepatic enzyme activities were determined in all rats. After feeding stigmasterol, baseline plasma cholesterol was 1.3 times and plant sterols 3 times greater in WKY compared with Wistar rats. Stigmasterol feeding lowered plasma cholesterol by approximately 11%, whereas plasma campesterol and sitosterol levels were virtually unchanged in both rat strains, and stigmasterol constituted 3.2% of plasma sterols in WKY rats and 1% in Wistar rats. After 6 weeks of feeding, cholesterol and sitosterol absorption decreased 23% and 30%, respectively, in WKY, and 22% and 16%, respectively, in the Wistar rats as compared with untreated rats. The intestinal bacteria in both rat strains metabolized stigmasterol to mainly the 5beta-H stanol (>40%), with only small amounts of 5alpha-H derivative (approximately 1.5%), whereas the C-22 double bond was resistant to bacterial metabolism. Hepatic stigmasterol levels increased from 11 microg/g liver tissue to 104 mug/g in WKY rats and from 5 microg/g liver tissue to 21 microg/g in Wistar rats. 3-Hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase activity was suppressed 4-fold in the WKY and almost 1.8-fold in Wistar rats, cholesterol 7alpha-hydroxylase activity was suppressed 1.6-fold in the WKY and 3.5-fold in Wistar rats, whereas cholesterol 27-hydroxylase activity was unchanged after feeding. In conclusion, stigmasterol, when fed, lowers plasma cholesterol levels, inhibits intestinal cholesterol and plant sterol absorption, and suppresses hepatic cholesterol and classic bile acid synthesis in Wistar as well as WKY rats. However, plasma and hepatic incorporation of stigmasterol is low.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bile Acids and Salts / biosynthesis
  • Cholesterol / biosynthesis
  • Cholesterol / blood*
  • Cholesterol / metabolism
  • Intestinal Absorption / drug effects*
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred WKY
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Sitosterols / blood
  • Sterols / blood
  • Stigmasterol / administration & dosage
  • Stigmasterol / metabolism
  • Stigmasterol / pharmacology*


  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • Sitosterols
  • Sterols
  • gamma-sitosterol
  • Cholesterol
  • Stigmasterol