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What are phytosterols?

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Quick Answer

According to Cleveland Clinic, phytosterols are a group of naturally occurring substances that are found in the cell membranes of plants and help in blocking the absorption of cholesterol. Phytosterols are also referred to as plant sterol and plant stanol esters.

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Full Answer

Consuming phytosterols is part of a balanced eating plan that helps protect the health of the cardiovascular system. Cleveland Clinic states that studies show eating phytosterols in the recommended quantities reduces total cholesterol levels by up to 10 percent and LDL cholesterol readings by up to 14 percent. LDL cholesterol is the type of cholesterol referred to as "bad cholesterol." This reduction in cholesterol levels occurs in addition to any reductions caused by an improved, heart-healthy diet and taking a statin drug to reduce cholesterol readings.

For people with high cholesterol or high LDL cholesterol, the National Cholesterol Education Program recommends consuming 2 grams of phytosterol every day, according to Cleveland Clinic. The Food and Drug Administration has approved a health claim on the packaging of phytosterol supplements that recommends one serving twice per day with meals of at least 0.65 grams of vegetable oil plant sterol esters. The FDA claims that the supplements may help reduce the risk of heart disease when consumed as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol.

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