Potential risks associated with increased plasma plant-sterol levels

Diabetes Metab. 2015 Feb;41(1):76-81. doi: 10.1016/j.diabet.2014.11.003. Epub 2014 Dec 9.


The consumption of plant sterols is associated with a decrease in LDL cholesterol. However, it is also associated with an increase in plasma plant-sterol (sitosterol, campesterol) levels that may be detrimental. Indeed, the genetic disease sitosterolaemia, which is characterized by elevated plasma levels of plant sterol, is associated with premature atherosclerosis. Yet, although plasma plant-sterol levels are recognized markers of cholesterol absorption, the relationship between such levels and atherosclerosis is not clear. Several studies have analysed the association between plasma plant-sterol levels and cardiovascular disease (CVD), but have found conflicting results. Although the largest prospective trials and genome-wide association studies suggest that high plasma levels of plant sterols are associated with increased CV risk, other studies have reported no such association and even an inverse relationship. Thus, the available data cannot confirm an increased CV risk with plant sterols, but cannot rule it out either. Only a prospective interventional trial to analyse the effects of plant-sterol-enriched food on the occurrence of CV events can exclude a potential CV risk linked with their consumption.

Keywords: Cardiovascular; Plant sterol; Risks; Sitosterolaemia.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cardiovascular Diseases*
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypercholesterolemia*
  • Intestinal Diseases*
  • Lipid Metabolism, Inborn Errors*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Phytosterols / adverse effects*
  • Plaque, Atherosclerotic*
  • Risk Factors


  • Phytosterols

Supplementary concepts

  • Sitosterolemia