Are Cargill’s Plant Sterols Dangerous?

By: Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist

By now you have certainly seen the ads – take plant sterols and lower your cholesterol.  These wild cholesterol-lowering claims, which the FDA is ignoring because Cargill is pushing them, are associated with various health risks.  A new study shows they may be quite dangerous for your heart1.

First some background.  I have never liked the idea of plant sterols as a cholesterol-lowering nutrient, as the concept is one of blocking absorption of cholesterol from the digestive tract.  Granted, a certain amount of plant sterols and fiber in your diet are very good for health and contribute to overall healthy cholesterol metabolism.  However, focusing on this mechanism is really a feeble strategy to improve true cholesterol fitness that promotes optimal cardiovascular health.

The risk certainly exists that such high abnormal intakes of sterols will block the absorption of other important fat-soluble nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin D, beta carotene, lycopene, lutein, Q10, vitamin K, and even essential fatty acids.

Then there is the simple fact that Cargill is involved, using their genetically modified soy to make these sterols.  That means that a dose of toxins will be in every cell of the so-called nutrient – a real deception not in the public interest. 

This garbage compound is being blended into foods of all kinds – even chocolate (by Mars) – and having a cholesterol lowering claim attached to it.  It is even showing up in vitamin products made by cheap vitamin companies and Big Pharma vitamin companies like Bayer (One A Day) and Wyeth (Centrum).

And now the new study that shows these sterols can directly accumulate in your heart valves and clog their function – forming its own new kind of plaque.  As the dose of these sterols rises in the blood, they do indeed lower cholesterol AND DIRECTLY TO THE EXTENT THEY LOWER CHOLESTEROL THEY CAN CLOG YOUR HEART VALVES.  At normal dietary doses of plant fibers very little sterols are actually absorbed.  If you take super high doses of concentrated plant sterols as a supplement or “designer food,” some of them will absorb and to the extent they do there is now evidence there could be real trouble.

You need to be able to synthesize cholesterol and have it work properly in your body.  If your primary strategy to manage cholesterol is to abnormally block its synthesis, you simply will never improve your heart health.  There is a good reason Wellness Resources did not jump on the bandwagon to make cholesterol products with abnormal levels of plant sterols – we actually care about your health.

The issue of cholesterol fitness is one of the top issues of health for every American.  It is time to rise above simplistic ideas about cholesterol and learn enough about the subject so that you can take truly good care of yourself.

Referenced Studies:
  1. ^ Plant Sterols May Be Dangerous in High Amounts  Journal of Lipid Research  Satu Helske, Tatu Miettinen, Helena Gylling, Mikko Mäyränpää, Jyri Lommi, Heikki Turto, Kalervo Werkkala, Markku Kupari and Petri T. Kovanen.

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