“Ask Dr. Walt” in Today’s Christian Living “What do you think about stanols or sterols to prevent heart disease?”

June 23, 1944 — Where would the final D-Day in Europe occur?
June 23, 2024
June 26, 1944 — Dear Mom, If people only knew how much mail means to soldiers overseas
June 26, 2024
Show all

“Ask Dr. Walt” in Today’s Christian Living “What do you think about stanols or sterols to prevent heart disease?”

I enjoy being penning a bi-monthly column for the readers of Today’s Christian Living magazine. In the March 2024 issue I addressed some questions about coconut oil, butter vs. margarin, healthy alternates to butter, and stanols vs. sterols.

May 2024 Today’s Christian Living

HERE’S THE LINK to the column which you’ll find on pages 20-21.

Phytosterols to lower cholesterol or prevent heart disease

Question: What do you think about stanols or sterols to prevent heart disease?

Answer: The FDA permits sterol-containing products to claim that they help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, although no study has shown a direct reduction in heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, or premature death. Nevertheless, dietary experts advise, “Along with a healthy diet, eating foods that provide you with around 2 grams of plant stanols and sterols every day has been shown to reduce blood cholesterol levels. A healthy diet typically contains only 200-400 mg of sterols and stanols a day. However, this intake is too low to bring about a significant cholesterol-lowering effect.”

Foods fortified with plant stanols and sterols come in many forms such as the healthy-fat-based spreads; juices such as Minute Maid® Premium Heart Wise Orange Juice; and fortified dairy-type foods (milk, yogurt, and yogurt drinks) such Dairy Farmers HeartActive® or Yoplait Healthy Heart® products which typically contain 0.5 to 2 gram of phytosterols per serving size and can help you reach the amount needed to help lower your cholesterol (tinyurl.com/5yjmjkuh). For example, you could have one cup of Minute Maid® Premium Heart Wise Orange Juice at breakfast and one tablespoon of Promise® Activ Spread on vegetables at dinner, or one tablespoon of Smart Balance Heart Right® spread on oatmeal at breakfast and two Benecol® Soft Chews or CholestOff® Plus soft gels with dinner).

I always prefer whole foods over supplements, but for those choosing a supplement, they are easy to take (and to take with you) if you need a backup when you cannot reach the 2-3 grams from food sources, for example, when on vacation or when dining out. The experts at ConsumerLab.com® (subscription) have tested phytosterol supplements and “Approved” as their “Top Pick” Nature Made® CholestOff® Plus, which they found “provides the right ingredients at the best price and even has a clinical study to support its efficacy … [and] was by far the least expensive source of sterols/stanols, at just sixteen cents per day. The cost to obtain the same amount of sterols/stanols from other products ranged from forty-seven to seventy-four cents per day.”

For most people, it is not essential to take phytosterols to help manage your cholesterol. Being more active, stopping smoking, and eating an overall heart-healthy diet are far more important. And for many people, a cholesterol-lowering medication is needed. Supplements should not substitute for a healthy diet or prescribed medication but can be used in addition to these steps. Nevertheless, phytosterol supplements are safe to use with a good diet and with a statin drug. If you decide to try one, check with your family physician or pharmacist first. If they okay it, try the phytosterols every day for 6-12 weeks. If your cholesterol levels improve, then it would be wise to continue them.

Here’s the whole series:

Walt Larimore, MD, has been called one of America’s best known family physicians and has been named in the “Guide to America’s Top Family Doctors,” “The Best Doctors in America,” “Who’s Who in Medicine and Healthcare,” and “Who’s Who in America.” He’s a former Vice President and Physician in Residence at Focus on the Family and the American Life League has named him a “Rock-Solid Pro-Life” awardee. He’s also an award-winning medical journalist and the best-selling author of over 40 books. He and his childhood sweetheart and wife of 50 years, Barb, have two adult children and reside in Colorado Springs. You can find Doctor Walt’s health blog at www.DrWalt.com and follow him on Facebook at “DrWalt.com”. Have questions for Dr. Walt? Email them to editor@todayschristianliving.org.

© Copyright WLL, INC. 2024. This blog provides healthcare tips and advice that you can trust about a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.