Plant Sterols

Plant sterols and stanols (Phytosterols; Beta-Sitosterol) are found in the cell walls of plants. Dietary sources of phytosterols include: sesame oil, corn oil, canola oil, peanuts, wheat bran, almonds, and Brussel sprouts.1 Phytosterols for supplemental use are often produced from the pulp of woody plants.

Major Health Benefits

Because phytosterols are structurally similar to cholesterol, they act to block dietary cholesterol absorption, thereby helping to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease by lowering cholesterol levels.2-4

  •  The National Cholesterol Education Program recommends people with high cholesterol consume 2 grams of phytosterols each day.5
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has even approved a health claim on phytosterols, which states: Daily dietary intake levels of plant sterol and stanol esters that have been associated with reduced (cardiovascular) risk of are: 1.3 g or more per day of plant sterol esters and/or 3.4 g or more per day of plant stanol esters.6

It has been suggested in preclinical, case-controlled, and population (epidemiology) studies that phytosterol consumption might offer protection from certain cancers, including lung, stomach, as well as ovarian and breast cancer.7-9


  1. Higdon, J. Phytosterols. Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University. 2005. (Reviewed by Jones, PJH in 2008). (Food Sources) Accessed in July 2015.
  2. Katan MB, Grundy SM, Jones P, Law M, Miettinen T, Paoletti R; Stresa Workshop Participants. Efficacy and safety of plant stanols and sterols in the management of blood cholesterol levels. Mayo Clin Proc. 2003 Aug;78(8):965-78PMID: 12911045.
  3. Berger A, Jones PJ, Abumweis SS. Plant sterols: factors affecting their efficacy and safety as functional food ingredients. Lipids Health Dis. 2004 Apr 7;3:5.PMID: 15070410; PMCID: PMC419367.
  4. Kendall CW, Jenkins DJ. A dietary portfolio: maximal reduction of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol with diet. Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2004 Nov;6(6):492-8.PMID: 15485596.
  5. National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (Adult Treatment Panel III). Third Report of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (Adult Treatment Panel III) final report. Circulation. 2002 Dec 17;106(25):3143-421. PMID: 12485966.
  6. Code of Federal Regulations; Title 21, Volume 2; Revised as of April 1, 2014. CITE: 21CFR101.83. Accessed in July 2015.
  7. Woyengo TA, Ramprasath VR, Jones PJ. Anticancer effects of phytosterols. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009 Jul;63(7):813-20. PMID: 19491917.
  8. Ju YH, Clausen LM, Allred KF, Almada AL, Helferich WG. beta-Sitosterol, beta-Sitosterol Glucoside, and a Mixture of beta-Sitosterol and beta-Sitosterol Glucoside Modulate the Growth of Estrogen-Responsive Breast Cancer Cells In Vitro and in Ovariectomized Athymic Mice. J Nutr. 2004 May;134(5):1145-51. PubMed PMID: 15113961.
  9. Awad AB, Fink CS, Williams H, Kim U. In vitro and in vivo (SCID mice) effects of phytosterols on the growth and dissemination of human prostate cancer PC-3 cells. Eur J Cancer Prev. 2001 Dec;10(6):507-13. PubMed PMID: 11916349.