LDL-cholesterol-lowering effect of plant sterols and stanols across different dose ranges: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled studies

Br J Nutr. 2014 Jul 28;112(2):214-9. doi: 10.1017/S0007114514000750. Epub 2014 Apr 29.


Phytosterols (PS, comprising plant sterols and plant stanols) have been proven to lower LDL-cholesterol concentrations. The dose-response relationship for this effect has been evaluated in several meta-analyses by calculating averages for different dose ranges or by applying continuous dose-response functions. Both approaches have advantages and disadvantages. So far, the calculation of averages for different dose ranges has not been done for plant sterols and stanols separately. The objective of the present meta-analysis was to investigate the combined and separate effects of plant sterols and stanols when classified into different dose ranges. Studies were searched and selected based on predefined criteria. Relevant data were extracted. Average LDL-cholesterol effects were calculated when studies were categorised by dose, according to random-effects models while using the variance as weighing factor. This was done for plant sterols and stanols combined and separately. In total, 124 studies (201 strata) were included. Plant sterols and stanols were administered in 129 and fifty-nine strata, respectively; the remaining used a mix of both. The average PS dose was 2.1 (range 0.2-9.0) g/d. PS intakes of 0.6-3.3 g/d were found to gradually reduce LDL-cholesterol concentrations by, on average, 6-12%. When plant sterols and stanols were analysed separately, clear and comparable dose-response relationships were observed. Studies carried out with PS doses exceeding 4 g/d were not pooled, as these were scarce and scattered across a wide range of doses. In conclusion, the LDL-cholesterol-lowering effect of both plant sterols and stanols continues to increase up to intakes of approximately 3 g/d to an average effect of 12%.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anticholesteremic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anticholesteremic Agents / chemistry
  • Anticholesteremic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cholesterol, LDL / blood
  • Dietary Supplements* / analysis
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Functional Food* / analysis
  • Humans
  • Hypercholesterolemia / blood
  • Hypercholesterolemia / diet therapy*
  • Phytosterols / administration & dosage
  • Phytosterols / chemistry
  • Phytosterols / therapeutic use*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Anticholesteremic Agents
  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • Phytosterols