Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Sterols and stanols: heart health super-duo

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Two grams per day of sterols and/or stanols can promote heart health, reducing cholesterol levels by around ten percent in as little as two weeks. They are most beneficial for people whose cholesterol levels are already elevated. According to one study, sterols and stanols together are more effective than a double-dose of cholesterol-lowering medications! Not bad for a bunch of little-known plant compounds, huh?

The catch with sterols and stanols is working out how to get enough. Two grams daily. Doesn't sound like much. And, true, sterols and stanols are found in a great many foods - avocados, corn oil, apples, oranges, beans and peanut butter, to name a few. But they occur in minute amounts, making it hard to get as much as two grams daily. Example? The olive oil shown in the picture I've used at right only contains about 0.03 grams of sterols per tablespoon.

To the rescue (for a price!) come food manufacturers. Eager to cash in on a growing demand for the healthful compounds, these companies are releasing sterol- and stanol-fortified foods onto the market at a steady pace. A couple of examples: CocoaVia chocolate covered almonds, Rice Dream Heartwise vanilla-flavored rice milk, and Minute Maid Heartwise orange juice. With heart disease the number one killer in the US, demand for such products will likely continue to grow. Want to know more? Click here to view a handy dandy chart of easy-to-find supermarket foods containing sterols/stanols.

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