Background: Dietary plant sterols, especially sitostanol, reduce serum cholesterol by inhibiting cholesterol absorption. Soluble sitostanol may be more effective than a less soluble preparation. We tested the tolerability and cholesterol-lowering effect of margarine containing sitostanol ester in a population with mild hypercholesterolemia.
Methods: We conducted a one-year, randomized, double-blind study in 153 randomly selected subjects with mild hypercholesterolemia. Fifty-one consumed margarine without sitostanol ester (the control group), and 102 consumed margarine containing sitostanol ester (1.8 or 2.6 g of sitostanol per day).
Results: The margarine containing sitostanol ester was well tolerated. The mean one-year reduction in serum cholesterol was 10.2 percent in the sitostanol group, as compared with an increase of 0.1 percent in the control group. The difference in the change in serum cholesterol concentration between the two groups was -24 mg per deciliter (95 percent confidence interval, -17 to -32; P < 0.001). The respective reductions in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol were 14.1 percent in the sitostanol group and 1.1 percent in the control group. The difference in the change in LDL cholesterol concentration between the two groups was -21 mg per deciliter (95 percent confidence interval, -14 to -29; P < 0.001). Neither serum triglyceride nor high-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations were affected by sitostanol. Serum campesterol, a dietary plant sterol whose levels reflect cholesterol absorption, was decreased by 36 percent in the sitostanol group, and the reduction was directly correlated with the reduction in total cholesterol (r = 0.57, P < 0.001).
Conclusions: Substituting sitostanol-ester margarine for part of the daily fat intake in subjects with mild hypercholesterolemia was effective in lowering serum total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.