Epidemiological evidence shows that men consuming a diet with high amounts of plant foods have a reduced risk of prostate cancer, owing to the availability of beta-sitosterol in the plant-based diet, notes PubMed. Beta-sitosterol increases the rate of programmed cell death, known as apoptosis, and triggers a decrease in the number of prostate cancer cells.
Beta-sitosterol is a substance found in fruits, nuts, vegetables and seeds, and is used to make medicine, explains WebMD. It is used for high cholesterol and heart disease. It is also used to strengthen the immune system, prevent colon cancer and also for diseases such as the common cold and flu, systemic lupus erythematosus, migraine headache, and chronic fatigue syndrome. It is also used for treating burns and wounds on the skin and by marathon runners to reduce swelling and pain after running, adds WebMD. It is a plant sterol, just as cholesterol is an animal sterol, says PubMed.
Beta-sitosterol is also added in some margarines, such as Take Control, that are designed for use in lowering cholesterol and preventing heart disease. It helps reduce cholesterol levels by limiting the amount of cholesterol that enters the body, says WebMD.
Beta-sitosterol is likely safe when taken orally by most people, according to WebMD. It can also cause side effects such as constipation, gas, indigestion, diarrhea and nausea, and has been linked to loss of interest in sex and erectile dysfunction. Expectant and breast-feeding mothers should avoid using beta-sitosterol, since not much is known of its safety, as of 2015, warns WebMD.