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Home > Health Library > Beta Sitosterol
Beta Sitosterol
Overview
Beta-sitosterol is a substance found in plants. Chemists call it a “plant sterol ester.” It is found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. It is used to make medicine.
Beta-sitosterol is used for heart disease and high cholesterol. It is also used for boosting the immune system and for preventing colon cancer, as well as for gallstones, the common cold and flu (influenza), HIV/AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis, tuberculosis, psoriasis, allergies, cervical cancer, fibromyalgia, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), asthma, hair loss, bronchitis, migraine, headache, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Some men use beta-sitosterol for enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH). Some women use it for symptoms of menopause. It is also used for enhancing sexual activity. Marathon runners sometimes use beta-sitosterol to reduce pain and swelling after a run. Some people apply beta-sitosterol to the skin for treating wounds and burns.

In foods, beta-sitosterol is added to some margarines (Take Control, for example) that are designed for use as part of a cholesterol-lowering diet and for preventing heart disease. The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows manufacturers to claim that foods containing plant sterol esters such as beta-sitosterol are for reducing the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). This rule is based on the FDA's conclusion that plant sterol esters may reduce the risk of CHD by lowering blood cholesterol levels. Although there is plenty of evidence that beta-sitosterol does lower cholesterol levels, there is no proof that long-term use actually lowers the risk of developing CHD.

Don't confuse beta-sitosterol with sitostanol, a similar substance contained in the product called Benecol. Both sitostanol and beta-sitosterol are used for lowering cholesterol levels in people with high cholesterol and appear to be equally effective.

Beta-sitosterol is a plant substance similar to cholesterol. It might help reduce cholesterol levels by limiting the amount of cholesterol that is able to enter the body. It can also bind to the prostate to help reduce swelling (inflammation).

What is Beta Sitosterol ?
Beta-sitosterol is a plant sterol, a compound that is closely related to cholesterol but comes from plants. Although many foods contain small amounts of beta-sitosterol, there is much interest in using it as a dietary supplement, especially in the form of functional foods, such as margarines or spreads. The substance is claimed to be beneficial for the following conditions
arw High cholesterol
arw Heart disease
arw An enlarged prostate (known medically as benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH).
 
Beta-sitosterol is a plant sterol, a compound similar to cholesterol. It is not absorbed much from the digestive system to the rest of the body, so it works mostly within the digestive system. It works by blocking the absorption of cholesterol from the intestine. Cholesterol in the intestine comes from two sources: food and the liver. The liver secretes cholesterol into the intestines in the form of bile, and some of this cholesterol is reabsorbed back into the body. Because beta-sitosterol decreases the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine, it can decrease cholesterol levels in the body, even if you do not eat much cholesterol, because of the cholesterol from the liver.

Beta-sitosterol may work for an enlarged prostate by inhibiting an enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase, blocking the conversion of testosterone into DHT (dihydrotestosterone), thereby decreasing the amount of DHT in the body. Since DHT is important for enlargement of the prostate, this may be how beta-sitosterol works for BPH. In fact, several prescription prostate medications work in a similar way. Since these medications are also effective for hair loss (particularly male pattern baldness), it is possible that beta-sitosterol may also work for hair loss.

Where it is found
Vegetable Oil: Vegetable oils are the best food source of beta sitosterol. Canola, corn and soybean oil, vegetable shortening, margarine made from corn or soybean oil, and tofu or soybean mayonnaise all contain high amounts of beta sitosterol.

Fruits and Vegetables: Avocados, grape leaves and fava beans also contain significant amounts of beta sitosterol.

Nuts: Pistachio nuts, almonds, hazel nuts, filberts, walnuts, macadamia nuts and pecans also are excellent sources of beta sitosterol.

Corn Chips: You don't often hear corn chips recommended for health reasons, but because of the corn oil, tortilla chips and other corn snacks are included on this list.

Unsweetened Chocolate: Another pleasing source of beta sitosterol is unsweetened baking chocolate. Now you can bake up your own tasty beta sitosterol brownies using this type of chocolate, along with margarine and chopped walnuts.
Product related PDF file
PLANT STEROL

Benefits / uses
Controlling Cholesterol
Beta-sitosterol has been known to reduce cholesterol levels over the last three decades. Its close chemical resemblance to cholesterol enables it to block the absorption of cholesterol by competitive inhibition. Although beta-sitosterol is not well absorbed by the body (5-10%), when consumed with cholesterol it effectively blocks cholesterol's absorption, resulting in lower serum cholesterol levels. Beta-sitosterol has also been shown to improve lipoprotein (HDL, LDL) profiles.

Promoting Prostate Health
In preventing and treating prostrate problems like benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), herbs such as saw palmetto extract, Pygeum africanum, and stinging nettle and pumpkin seeds are recommended.

In Europe, herbal preparations were often considered prescription drugs for patients with BPH. Plant sterols actually improved prostate symptom scores and reduced urine volume and residual urine levels without reducing the size of the prostate. Beta-sitosterol was one of the major components in these herbal preparations. Researchers also cited that beta-sitosterol alone was an effective option in the treatment of BPH.

Anti-Cancer Effects
Beta-sitosterol acts against cancer. It is found to reduce the growth of human prostate and colon cancer cells. It also acts against lymphocytic leukemia.
It appears that diets high in vegetables and fruits prevent cancer to a certain degree. Soybeans are superb sources of protein that reduces the risk of cancer too. Beta-sitosterol is one of the key compounds in soybeans that suppress carcinogenosis.

Boosts Immunity
Beta-sitosterol may give a boost to competitive athletes who often suffer from immune suppression and reduced inflammatory response during their intense training periods and competitions.

Beta-sitosterol had been shown not only to boost their immunity but also noted to enhance lymphocyte proliferation and NK-cell activity. This is particularly useful to people who are physically stressed, medically unwell or recovering from illness.

Normalizes Blood Sugar
Beta-sitosterol has been shown to normalize blood sugar and insulin levels in Type II diabetics by stimulating the release of insulin in the presence of non-stimulatory glucose concentrations, and inhibiting glucose-6-phosphatase.

In the liver, the enzyme glucose-6-phosphatase is the primary pathway for conversion of dietary carbohydrates to blood sugar. Glucose-6-phosphatase dephosphorylates glucose-6-phosphate to yield free D-glucose. Free D-glucose passes into the blood, thus elevating blood sugar levels.

Reducing the blood glucose levels by down-regulation of glucose-6-phosphatase helps delay diabetes caused by old age.

Other Benefits of Beta-sitosterol
Beta-sitosterol has the ability to relieve inflammation, heal ulcers, enhance uterine tone and alleviate cramps. It also has anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agents.

Doses
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:

BY MOUTH:
For benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH): 60 to 130 mg of beta-sitosterol divided into 2-3 doses daily.
For high cholesterol: 800 mg to 6 grams per day divided and given before meals.
Beta-sitosterol is usually taken along with a low-fat diet.
Possible Side effects / Precautions / Possible Interactions:
Beta-sitosterol is LIKELY SAFE for most people when taken by mouth. It can cause some side effects, such as nausea, indigestion, gas, diarrhea, or constipation. Beta-sitosterol has also been linked to reports of erectile dysfunction (ED) and loss of interest in sex.
Beta-sitosterol is
POSSIBLY SAFE when applied to the skin.

Special Precautions & Warnings:
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of beta-sitosterol during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Sitosterolemia, a rare inherited fat storage disease: People with this condition have too much beta-sitosterol and related fats in their system. They are prone to early heart disease. Taking beta-sitosterol makes this condition worse. Don't take beta-sitosterol if you have sitosterolemia.

INTERACTIONS
Ezetimibe (Zetia) interacts with BETA-SITOSTEROL
Taking ezetimibe (Zetia) can reduce of amount of beta-sitosterol the body absorbs. This might decrease the effectiveness of beta-sitosterol.


Pravastatin (Pravachol) interacts with BETA-SITOSTEROL
Taking pravastatin (Pravachol) might decrease how much beta-sitosterol is in the body. This might decrease the effectiveness of beta-sitosterol

Research studies / References
arw Awad AB, Chen YC, Fink CS, Hennessey T. Beta-sitosterol inhibits HT-29 human colon cancer cell growth and alters membrane lipids. Anticancer Res 1996;16(5A):2797-804.


arw Berges RR, Windeler J, Trampisch HJ, et al. Randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial of beta-sitosterol in patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia. Beta-sitosterol Study Group. Lancet 1995;345(8964):1529-32.


arw Becker M, Staab D, Von Bergmann K. Treatment of severe familial hypercholesterolemia in childhood with sitosterol and sitostanol. J Pediatr 1993;122(2):292-6.


arw Wilt TJ, MacDonald R, Ishani A. beta-sitosterol for the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia: a systematic review. BJU Int 1999;83:976-83.


arw Klippel KF, Hiltl DM, Schipp B. A multicentric, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial of beta-sitosterol (phytosterol) for the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia. Br J Urol 1997;80(3):427-32


arw Salen G, Shefer S, Nguyen L, et al. Sisterolemia. J Lipid Res 1992;33(7):945-55.


arw Ntanios FY, Jones PJ, Frohlich JJ. Effect of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase inhibitor on sterol absorption in hypercholesterolemic subjects. Metabolism 1999;48(1):68-73.


arw Bouic PJ, Etsebeth S, Liebenberg RW, et al. Beta-sitosterol and beta-sitosterol glucoside stimulate human peripheral blood lymphocyte proliferation: implications for their use as an immunomodulatory vitamin combination. Int J Immunopharmacol 1996;18(12):693-700.


arw Schlierf G, Oster P, Heuck CC, et al. Sitosterol in juvenile type II hyperlipoproteinemia. Atherosclerosis 1978;30(4):245-8.


arw Awad AB, von Holtz RL, Cone JP, et al. Beta-sitosterol inhibits growth of HT-29 human colon cancer cells by activating the sphingomyelin cycle. Anticancer Res 1998;18(1A):471-3.


arw Oster P, Schlierf G, Heuck CC, et al. [Sitosterol in familial hyperlipoproteinemia type II. A randomized, double-blind, cross-over study]. [Article in German] Dtsch Med Wochenschr 1976;101(36):1308-11.


arw Nguyen LB, Shefer S, Salen G, et al. Competitive inhibition of hepatic sterol 27-hydroxylase by sitosterol: decreased activity in sitosterolemia. Proc Assoc Am Physicians 1998;110(1):32-9.


arw Salen G, Shore V, Tint GS, et al. Increased sitosterol absorption, decreased removal, and expanded body pools compensate for reduced cholesterol synthesis in sitosterolemia with xanthomatosis. J Lipid Res 1989;30(9):1319-30.


arw Patel SB, Honda A, Salen G. Sitosterolemia: exclusion of genes involved in reduced cholesterol biosynthesis. J Lipid Res 1998;39(5):1055-61.


arw Bouic PJ, Clark A, Lamprecht J, et al. The effects of B-sitosterol (BSS) and B-sitosterol glucoside (BSSG) mixture on selected immune parameters of marathon runners: inhibition of post marathon immune suppression and inflammation. Int J Sports Med 1999;20(4):258-62.


arw Hidaka H, Kojima H, Kawabata T, et al. Effects of an HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor, pravastatin, and bile sequestering resin, cholestyramine, on plasma plant sterol levels in hypercholesterolemic subjects. J Atheroscler Thromb 1995;2(1):60-5.


arw Anon. W&B Associates Inc. website. URL http://www.wandb.com/cholesterol.6.htm (Accessed 30 March 2000).


arw Schwartzkopff W, Jantke HJ. [Dose-effect of beta-sitosterin in type IIa and IIb hypercholesterolemias]. [Article in German]. MMW Munch Med Wochenschr 1978;120(47):1575-8.


arw Becker M, Staab D, Von Bergman K. Long-term treatment of severe familial hypercholesterolemia in children: effect of sitosterol and bezafibrate. Pediatrics 1992;89(1):138-42.


arw Micromedex Healthcare Series. Englewood, CO: MICROMEDEX Inc.


arw Lees AM, Mok HYI, Lee RS, et al. Plant sterols as cholesterol-lowering agents: clinical trials in patients with hypercholesterolemia and studies of sterol balance. Atherosclerosis 1977;28:325-38.


arw Pelletier X, Belbraouet S, Mirabel D, et al. A diet moderately enriched in phytosterols lowers plasma cholesterol concentrations in normocholesterolemic humans. Ann Nutr Metab 1995;39:291-5.


arw Jones PJ, Raeini-Sarjaz M, Ntanios FY, et al. Modulation of plasma lipid levels and cholesterol kinetics by phytosterol versus phytostanol esters. J Lipid Res 2000;41:697-705.


arw Awad AB, Chan KC, Downie AC, Fink CS. Peanuts as a source of ß-sitosterol, a sterol with anticancer properties. Nutr Cancer 2000;36:238–41.


arw Bouic PJD, Clark A, Lamprecht J, et al. The effect of B-sitosterol (BSS) and B-sitosterol glucoside (BSSG) mixture on selected immune parameters of marathon runners: Inhibition of post marathon immune suppression and inflammation. Int J Sports Med 1999;20:258–62.