Eat More Fat . . .
to Lower Cholesterol?

You've probably heard about the new products containing plant sterols and stanols that can help lower your blood cholesterol level. It's not medicine though, doesn't look like medicine, and certainly doesn't taste like medicine! It's margarine and can be found in the cold foods section of your grocery store! Benecol and Take Control are two of these products currently available.

Cholesterol in the body comes from two sources: dietary intake and the liver which naturally produces cholesterol. Normally, the liver does not produce excess cholesterol, however, over-production can sometimes occur in some people. In both instances, you're at increased risk for coronary artery disease (CAD).

Total cholesterol consists of smaller units called LDL's, HDL's, and VLDL's. HDLs are called the "good cholesterol" because they help carry cholesterol away from arteries. LDLs are called the "bad cholesterol" because they contribute to the build-up of plaque on the inside of coronary arteries which eventually leads to a heart attack. VLDLs also carry cholesterol and eventually become LDLs.

Studies show that it's LDLs that contribute to CAD. When your total cholesterol soars to 240 or higher, your doctor will probably advise you to cut down on high fat, high cholesterol foods like meat, cheese, and eggs which contain a lot of cholesterol. But it's also important to decrease consumption of fatty foods, even if the label claims to contain "no cholesterol," because too much dietary fat causes the liver to produce excess cholesterol.

Plant sterols and stanols come from compounds like wood, vegetable oil, corn, and other plants. Once consumed, these plant derivatives work by helping to decrease LDL levels and therefore, decrease total cholesterol. Unfortunately though, you can't get enough sterols from diet alone.

How much can it help? Research shows that plant sterols and stanols can lower LDL levels by 10% to15% when consuming 24 grams per day of sterol-containing margarine. This effect is individual. In other words, some people may see a large decrease and others only a mild decrease.

A huge benefit to using these substances instead of other medications that also work to lower cholesterol is that sterols and stanols don't interfere with the absorption of fat soluble vitamins.

If you're vegetarian, you'll want to know that these margarines, because they're made from plants, contain no animal products.

Here are a few things to consider when using
margarines containing plant sterols and stanols:

  • These products are expensive when compared to regular margarines - one small tub may cost between $4 and $5.
  • Margarine is a fat. If you're on a weight loss diet, take note that calories are the same from both the regular and sterol-containing margarines.
  • If you're overweight and have high blood cholesterol levels, the first priority is to lose that excess body fat, as this will have a direct effect on lowering your cholesterol. To achieve weight loss, cut down on calories and fatty foods as well as high cholesterol foods including margarine and butter. If you're determined not to give up margarine, then use the sterol-containing margarine rather than regular.
  • If your weight is normal but you have high cholesterol levels, it's recommended to use the sterol-containing products to help lower your cholesterol.
  • If you're not overweight and have normal blood cholesterol levels, then "it may not help but it won't hurt." So, if you don't mind spending extra dollars on the more expensive product, enjoy!

For more information on cholesterol, call the American Heart Association at 1-800-242-8721.

Where do you get your nutrition information? Most states now have licensure laws for Dietitians and Nutritionists. Be sure your nutrition advisor is "Licensed" by the State as a Licensed Dietitian (LD) or Licensed Nutritionist (LN), or in states that don't have licensure laws, a Registered Dietitian.




CarboH, Inc.
Barbara Herondorf, L.D.