Phytosterols, or plant sterols, are present in high concentration in vegetable oils before they are refined. In recent years the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol lowering effect of sterols has been rediscovered, having been established and discarded some 30 years ago. The two main sterols that are widely present in plant foods other than oils are sitosterol and campesterol, and most of us eat between 150 mg and 400 mg of phytosterols daily. Consumption by vegetarians is even higher and may account partly for their lower LDL levels. Sterols can be converted to stanols by saturating double-bonds. Plant stanols are found in lower concentration naturally, but, like sterols, stanols have been incorporated into margarines to lower LDL levels.
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