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Maintain Healthy Cholesterol Levels With Beta Sitosterol A Plant Phytosterol

Mar 26, 2008
Beta Sitosterol is a plant phytosterol that offers many benefits to your health. Many of these are due to its effect in reducing both total and LDL cholesterol in the blood, although that is not the only effect that phytosterols can have on your body.

Phytosterol is one of many phytochemicals that are beneficial to your health, and the term 'phyto' simply indicates that the substance is obtained from plants. Phytosterols are not obtainable in your diet from animal sources, and beta sitosterol is mainly found in seeds, soy and corn oils. Because of this, most of the population do not have high intake, and so supplements are generally the most common source of this valuable material.

There are commonly two types of cholesterol: HDL and LDL, and it is the LDL form that is said to be the 'bad' cholesterol. In fact the terms refer to the high density and low density lipoproteins that carry the cholesterol around the body. Cholesterol itself is fat soluble, and does not dissolve in water. It therefore cannot travel through the blood without the aid of a water soluble protein, which is what the lipoproteins are.

Low density lipoproteins consist of a charged protein portion and a lipid, or fat, frequently a triglyceride. The charged protein portion is water soluble, and can carry the lipid and cholesterol round the blood. Cholesterol is not a bad substance, but carries out many useful functions, one of which is repairing damage to blood vessels: a bit like a sticking plaster. However, the LDL can become oxidized by free radicals in the body, and it is this oxidized LDL that reacts by depositing fatty plaques of cholesterol onto the arterial walls and ultimately blocking them.

The HDL carries cholesterol from the blood to the liver where it is destroyed and then secreted, which is why it is sometimes termed 'good' cholesterol. Beta sitosterol significantly reduces the amount of both LDL and total cholesterol levels in the blood. Once the total cholesterol level has dropped to a certain level, then the body produces more HDL cholesterol and so maintains balance that is higher than normal in the 'good' HDL cholesterol.

The way that phytosterols do this is believed to be by reducing the absorption of dietary cholesterol in the gut, because the sterols have a similar chemical structure to cholesterol and can occupy the cholesterol absorption sites. Beta sitosterol is particularly effective in this mechanism. Rather than the body absorbing cholesterol it passes it thorough the gut unchanged and eliminates it.

The National Cholesterol Education Program has recommended that the optimum blood LDL cholesterol level is below 100 mg/dl and that the total of LDL and HDL be below 200 mg/dl. A regular intake of beta sitosterol can help to maintain these levels without reducing your cholesterol to a dangerously low level. As previously stated, cholesterol is an essential component of your normal biochemistry, and too low a level could be dangerous. What you need is natural regulation of the LDL form, and that is what beta sitosterol and the other phytosterols do. However, beta sitosterol does more than just control your cholesterol balance.

It also supports the health of your prostate. Studies indicate that a daily intake of 60 mg - 130 mg beta sitosterol can reduce the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia, the Sunday name for non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate. This could be due to its effect on LDL cholesterol levels, since other studies have indicated a possible connection between high cholesterol levels and prostate enlargement. This might again be due to the occupation of receptor sites in the prostate cell membranes by the phytosterol. Saw palmetto, commonly used to treat prostate problems, contains beta sitosterol.

It also appears to modulate the biochemical synthesis of cytokines, which are responsible for the inflammatory response of the immune system to foreign invaders and tissue damage. It also appears to boost the activity of NK-cells, and also of the proliferation of lymphocytes in general. Another effect of beta sitosterol is in normalizing the insulin and blood sugar levels in Type 2 diabetes. It does this by inhibiting the enzyme glucose-6-phosphatase that is responsible for the conversion of carbohydrates to D-glucose which raises blood sugar levels. The upshot is that the onset of age related Type 2 diabetes is delayed.

In general, beta sitosterol displays many properties beneficial to your health. It displays anti-viral and anti-fungal properties, is believed to be responsible for the suppression of cancers of the colon and prostate, and lymphocytic leukemia. It appears to act as an anti-inflammatory, and has a beneficial effect on ulcers and cramps. There is even evidence that it can help to cure allergies, although more studies are required to confirm this. Those suffering from specific allergies have reported a lessening of the effects when taking beta sitosterol supplements, although it is possible that other dietary factors were also involved.

Beta sitosterol is contained in some concentration or another in most plants, but those richest in the phytosterol are wheat germ, peanuts, soybeans, corn oil, pumpkin seeds and rice bran. None of these form a particularly large part of the western diet, and a supplement is likely the best way to ensure a sufficiently adequate frequent intake as to have a significant effect on your LDL cholesterol level.

Although a daily intake of 300 mg has been cited by some sources as adequate, there have been no reported ill effects of taking this supplement at higher dosages. As already stated, your cholesterol levels are self regulating to a minimum level and you cannot completely block its absorption. Hence, it is not possible to take so much beta sitosterol as to reduce your LDL cholesterol to a dangerously low level.

There is sufficient evidence for the effects of beta sitosterol on the body to indicate that if your diet is low in those seeds, nuts and beans that contain significant quantities, the a supplement will provide you with benefits to your health, particularly if you have high blood cholesterol levels or problems with your prostate gland.
About the Author
More information on beta sitosterol for cholesterol, prostate and the immune system is available at VitaNet , LLC Health Food Store. http://vitanetonline.com/
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