What are phytosterols and phytosterol esters?
Phytosterols and phytosterol esters are compounds with chemical structures very similar to cholesterol. These beneficial “fat-like” substances are naturally found in small amounts in everyday foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, grains, legumes, vegetable oils, and other plant sources. Increasing your daily intake of plant sterols can help you actively manage your cholesterol, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease.
Phytosterol is an active ingredient that is widely found in the roots, stems, leaves, fruits, and seeds of plants and is an indispensable nutrient for maintaining vascular health. Authoritative organizations such as the World Heart Federation, the American Heart Association, and the European Atherosclerosis Society believe that phytosterols can effectively lower blood viscosity and bad cholesterol levels, thus reducing the risk of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases. However, such an important nutrient cannot be synthesized by the human body itself, and can only be obtained from food.
Phytosterol esters are generally prepared from phytosterols and oleic acid by esterification or transesterification. Because there are many types of sterols and oleic acids that can be used to produce phytosterol esters, various phytosterol esters with different physical and chemical properties can be obtained. The three major phytosterol esters are β-sitosterol ester, stigmasterol ester, vegetable sterol ester campesterol Esters.
What is the difference between phytosterols and phytosterol esters? Do they have the same effect?
In plant tissues, phytosterols are present in five common forms, as shown in the figure below. In terms of molecular structure, they can be divided into two categories: free type and bound type. The free type is also commonly known as phytosterols, while phytosterol esters are bound phytosterols. Compared with phytosterols, phytosterol esters have better solubility in lipid substances, so they are more often added to yogurt, salad dressing, spreads, and others to make foods rich in phytosterols.
According to the results of existing clinical experiments, the efficacy of phytosterol and phytosterol ester in lowering cholesterol is equivalent, and there are no significant differences.