Have High Cholesterol? Lower It With Plant Stanols

How Plant Stanols Can Lower Cholesterol


It’s not just Type 2 Diabetes that women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) are at an increased risk for but heart disease as well. Women with PCOS have been shown to have high rates of dyslipidemia, a condition marked by high total and low-density (LDL) “bad” cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) “good” cholesterol. Compared to women without PCOS, women with the disease also showed higher rates of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), a marker of inflammation and heart disease risk, independent of their weight status.

Feeling doomed? Don’t be. Knowledge is power. Awareness of the risk of heart disease associated with PCOS is the first step. If you don’t know your cholesterol levels, contact your doctor or get tested. Prevention and treatment is key. A healthy diet along with regular physical activity can help to prevent heart disease. If you do have abnormal cholesterol levels despite changes to your lifestyle, you may want to use plant stanols. The addition of plant stanols into your daily diet is one surprisingly easy and effective way to lower cholesterol levels. Here’s what to know.

What Are Plant Stanols And Sterols?

Plant stanols (also called sterols) are potent cholesterol-lowering substances. Here’s how they work. Plant stanols are unabsorbable. These substances have a chemical structure that mimic’s that of cholesterol but are preferred by the body. So, when plant stanols are eaten, the body recognizes them, not the cholesterol.

The result is cholesterol gets blocked and excreted as waste.

Why Are Plant Stanols And Sterols Important?

By blocking the absorption of cholesterol, plant stanols or sterols have been shown to lower levels of total cholesterol up to 10% and reduce LDL cholesterol levels by 6% to 15% without affecting levels of HDL cholesterol.

Consumption of plant stanols is safe and doesn’t appear to interfere with the action of nutrients, statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications.

As potent as they are, plant stanols shouldn’t be viewed as a replacement for a healthy diet or lifestyle but rather an addition to it. The National Cholesterol Education/Adult Treatment III program guidelines endorse the use of plant stanols for lowering cholesterol by stating “Eating a heart healthy low fat diet that include eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grain foods, plant sterols/stanols, plus regular physical activity help reduce the risk of heart disease.”

The Food and Drug Administration also recommends them and have approved a health claim about the use of plant sterols in reducing the risk for heart disease.

Food Sources of Plant Stanols and Sterols

Plant stanols can be found in small quantities in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and oils. While people consume plant stanols and sterols in everyday foods, the average intake of them are usually under 500 milligrams, not enough to have significant cholesterol-lowering effects. Many food products now have plant stanols added to them such as fortified butter spreads, salad dressings, snack bars, cereals, yogurts, and juices as food manufactures recognize their benefits.

Plant stanols can also be found in certain dietary supplements.

The National Cholesterol Education Program recommends that people who have high cholesterol consume 2 grams of plant stanols or sterols each day. Look for the amount of plant stanols on a food label as manufacturers are required to list the total amount of plant sterols in the nutrition facts panel if they use the FDA food claim.

Just because a food has plant stanols in it though, doesn’t mean it’s healthy for women with PCOS. Check the ingredients of the food product carefully, avoiding items that are processed and high in sugar.


Patch c, Tapsell L, Williams P, Gordon M. Plant Sterols as Dietary Adjuvants in the Reduction of Cardiovascular Risk: Theory and Evidence. Vasc Health Risk Manag. 2006; 2(2):157–162.

Nguyen T. The Cholesterol-Lowering Action of Plant Stanol Esters. J Nutr. 1999;129(2):2109-2112.