Consensus Statement of the European Atherosclerosis Society on Plant sterols and plant stanols in the management of dyslipidaemia and prevention of cardiovascular disease.

Filed under Consensus (a)


Objective: This EAS Consensus Panel critically appraised evidence relevant to the benefit to risk relationship of functional foods with added plant sterols and/or plant stanols, as components of a healthy lifestyle, to reduce plasma low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-C) levels, and thereby lower cardiovascular risk. Methods and results: Plant sterols/stanols (when taken at 2 g/day) cause significant inhibition of cholesterol absorption and lower LDL-C levels by between 8 and 10%. The relative proportions of cholesterol versus sterol/stanol levels are similar in both plasma and tissue, with levels of sterols/stanols being 500-/10,000-fold lower than those of cholesterol, suggesting they are handled similarly to cholesterol in most cells. Despite possible atherogenicity of marked elevations in circulating levels of plant sterols/stanols, protective effects have been observed in some animal models of atherosclerosis. Higher plasma levels of plant sterols/stanols associated with intakes of 2 g/day in man have not been linked to adverse effects on health in long-term human studies. Importantly, at this dose, plant sterol/ stanol-mediated LDL-C lowering is additive to that of statins in dyslipidaemic subjects, equivalent to doubling the dose of statin. The reported 6e9% lowering of plasma triglyceride by 2 g/day in hypertriglyceridaemic patients warrants further evaluation.

Conclusion: Based on LDL-C lowering and the absence of adverse signals, this EAS Consensus Panel concludes that functional foods with plant sterols/stanols may be considered 1) in individuals with high cholesterol levels at intermediate or low global cardiovascular risk who do not qualify for pharmaco-
therapy, 2) as an adjunct to pharmacologic therapy in high and very high risk patients who fail to achieve LDL-C targets on statins or are statin- intolerant, 3) and in adults and children (>6 years) with familial hypercholesterolaemia, in line with current guidance. However, it must be acknowledged that there are no randomised, controlled clinical trial data with hard end-points to establish clinical benefit from the use of plant sterols or plant stanols.

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