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Combined Ingredients may Cut Cholesterol Levels

Combining plant stanol esters and beta-glucan reduced levels of LDL-cholesterol by almost ten per cent, says a new study// from the Netherlands.

But whether this could offer the possibility of formulating an additional weapon in the armoury against elevated cholesterol levels remains to be seen since the reductions were not as much as expected, possibly due to detrimental interactions between the ingredients.

High cholesterol levels, hypercholesterolaemia, have a long association with many diseases, particularly cardiovascular disease (CVD), the cause of almost 50 per cent of deaths in Europe, and reported to cost the EU economy an estimated €169bn ($202bn) per year.

Phytosterols and stanols, cholesterol-like molecules derived from plants, are increasingly well known to consumers due to their scientifically proven ability to reduce cholesterol levels. As consumer awareness has increased, the number of products containing plant sterols or plant stanols and their esters has increased.

Indeed, a recent Frost and Sullivan report valued the European market at €146m ($184.6m) in 2005, and estimates this to reach €312.5m ($395.2m) in 2012, an increase of 114 per cent.

However, a recent study from France reported that, despite the widely advertised benefits of using phytosterol-enriched margarines, only 15 per cent of the study population of people at high risk of heart disease were consuming the margarines, with only five per cent consumed the recommended daily amount.

Researchers from Maastricht University report that combining plant stanol esters with another ingredient receiving increasing attention, beta-glucan - a non-starch polysaccharide found in oats and barley previously reported to decrease LDL-C levels - may reduce cholesterol levels more than a beta-glucan alone.

Writing in the Journal of Nutrition, authors Elke Theuwissen and Ronald Mensink report that combination of the two
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