Stanols and sterols

A range of products—from margarine and yogurt to orange juice and granola bars—contain added stanols and sterols, plant-derived compounds that can help lower LDL cholesterol levels without any known side effects.

Stanols and sterols have a similar structure to cholesterol and compete with dietary cholesterol for absorption in the small intestine. As a result, these substances decrease dietary cholesterol absorption in the small intestine.

Studies show that stanol- and sterol-fortified foods reduce LDL cholesterol levels by up to 10 to 13 percent when used regularly in combination with a low-saturated fat, low-cholesterol diet. However, stanols and sterols appear to have no beneficial effect on HDL cholesterol or triglyceride levels. Stanol- and sterol-fortified foods can be high in calories, so be sure to eat them in moderation.

Publication Review By: Gary Gerstenblith, M.D., and Simeon Margolis, M.D., Ph.D.

Published: 05 Jul 2013

Last Modified: 05 Jul 2013