Background: The prevalence of premature atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease (CVD) is constantly
increasing worldwide. It has been proved that LDL-cholesterol (LDL-C) plays causal role in the development
of coronary atherosclerosis. The fact that atherosclerosis is a chronic and progressive disease which onsets
during the first three decades of life bores questions what to do to maintain LDL-C at low levels throughout life
and thus to delay and/or prevent the progress this disease. Currently, most of public health expenses are spared on
treatment, but not on prophylaxis.
Methods: This is a review article summarizing novel reports concerning the efficacy of sterols/stanols as lipidlowering
agents, assessing their influence on cardiovascular risk and safety.
Results: It has been suggested that sterols and stanols are effective in the lowering of low-density cholesterol
levels and diminishing cardiovascular risk. However, the results of other studies suggest that phytosterols may not
exert positive effects during atherogenesis. Firstly, patients with phytosterolaemia (genetic disease in which high
plant sterol plasma concentrations are observed) develop malignant premature atherosclerosis. Moreover, several
epidemiological studies demonstrated the association between upper normal plasma concentrations of plant sterols
and increased risk of cardiovascular events. Finally, the supplementation with plant stanols and plant sterols
may be not beneficial due to their incorporation in various tissues and potentially resulting in adverse effects.
Conclusion: Despite the worldwide promotion of sterols as health improving supplements, it seems that in some
people responding with relatively high phytosterol serum levels after its consumption such additives may turn out
to be as good as it has been believed.