Cholesterol is high in hundreds of millions of persons in our world. Everybody wants to reduce cholesterol. It is a big market not only for the pharmaceutical industry but also for the food industry. There are medicines with very high turnover and the food industry follows now. Functional food is the wonder word now. Yogurts and bread spreads are available to reduce 10% cholesterol. Do we all know what is happening to reduce cholesterol or are there any risks from these foods? Let us discuss about this here.

In these functional foods like yogurts and bread spreads foods plant substances called phytosterols are used which have the same function in the plants as cholesterol in human beings. Both have almost similar structure and phytosterols are better absorbed in our intestine than cholesterol. Thus the cholesterol is reduced, a maximum of10%. There are no clinical studies which prove the reduction of risk for heart diseases.

Normally phytosterols are recognized as an enemy by the intestine cells and excreted quickly. If this is not happening because of gene defects they are present in high concentration in the body which can result heart attack, stroke and yellow skin pigmentation even in young persons. The recent experiments with mouse show that phytosterols in high amount can make the blood vessels hard.

The normal intake of phytosterols in Europe is 300 mg per day, but to reduce the cholesterol the recommended amount in these functional foods are 2000 mg to 3000 mg per day. To reduce 10% cholesterol the amount of phytosterols is increased to 200% to 300% in our blood. A recent study says it may be bad for persons who have artificial heart valves because of sedimentation. There is no clear cut recommendation, but the doctors think that people who have high risk to get cardiovascular diseases should not take too much of phytosterols. Here, clinical studies like for the medicines, are absolutely necessary.

Side effects like depression or fatigue are reported in the literature by individuals. It is worth to do further research as these phytosterols can reduce cholesterol and LDL, but increase HDL.

Children below 10 years, pregnant women and breast feeding mothers must avoid functional foods containing phytosterols.

Whatever we do to reduce cholesterol we should not forget that our liver and other organs produce 1500 mg to 2000 mg cholesterol per day. If we totally avoid cholesterol in our foods the body will produce more as it is needed for the functioning of the body. So healthy food, enough exercise must be always there to reduce the risks.

There are many applications pending in Europe for many functional foods which contain phytosterols. The consumers must be very careful.