Beta-Sitosterol Plant Extract

Topic Overview

What is beta-sitosterol plant extract?

Beta-sitosterol is one of many sterols that come from plants (phytosterols) and have a structure like the cholesterol produced in the body. You can find phytosterols in many plants and thus in foods such as rice bran, wheat germ, corn oils, soybeans, and peanuts. Beta-sitosterol is also available as a dietary supplement.

What is beta-sitosterol used for?

Beta-sitosterol is said to lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of some cancers. It also is said to relieve symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). How beta-sitosterol works is not known. It may be related to cholesterol metabolism or anti-inflammatory effects.

A review of studies done on beta-sitosterol showed that men who took it had fewer symptoms than men who took a placebo. Symptoms were measured using the American Urological Association (AUA) symptom index. Men who took beta-sitosterol also had a better urine flow rate then men who took a placebo.1

Research supports the fact that phytosterols, including beta-sitosterol, can reduce cholesterol levels. Some studies suggest that phytosterols may reduce the risk of some cancers, but more research is needed to know how well they really work.

Is beta-sitosterol safe?

Few problems have been reported among men taking beta-sitosterol for BPH. Some men may have problems with their stomach and digestion. Beta-sitosterol's ability to prevent complications of BPH is not known.

Men who have problems urinating should see a doctor to rule out prostate cancer or other diseases. Prostate cancer is treatable, but treatment may be more successful when you find and treat the cancer as early as possible.

Some studies have shown that phytosterols can help lower cholesterol. But the long-term effects of eating foods that have phytosterols added to them (for example, some margarines) or taking phytosterols as a dietary supplement are not yet known.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate dietary supplements in the same way it regulates medicines. A dietary supplement can be sold with limited or no research on how well it works.

Always tell your doctor if you are using a dietary supplement or if you are thinking about combining a dietary supplement with your conventional medical treatment. It may not be safe to forgo your conventional medical treatment and rely only on a dietary supplement. This is especially important for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding.

When using dietary supplements, keep in mind the following:

  • Like conventional medicines, dietary supplements may cause side effects, trigger allergic reactions, or interact with prescription and nonprescription medicines or other supplements you might be taking. A side effect or interaction with another medicine or supplement may make other health conditions worse.
  • The way dietary supplements are manufactured may not be standardized. Because of this, how well they work or any side effects they cause may differ among brands or even within different lots of the same brand. The form of the supplement that you buy in health food or grocery stores may not be the same as the form used in research.
  • Other than for vitamins and minerals, the long-term effects of most dietary supplements are not known.

References

Citations

  1. Wilt TJ, et al. (1999). Beta-sitosterols for benign prostatic hyperplasia. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (3).

Other Works Consulted

  • Beta sitosterol (2004). In A DerMarderosian, J Beutler, eds., Review of Natural Products. St. Louis: Wolters Kluwer Health.
  • Bradford PG, Awad AB (2007). Phytosterols as anticancer compounds. Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, 51(2): 161–70.
  • Gylling H, et al. (1997). Reduction of serum cholesterol in postmenopausal women with previous myocardial infarction and cholesterol malabsorption induced by dietary sitostanol ester margarine: Women and dietary sitostanol. Circulation, 96(12): 4226.
  • Miettinen TA, et al. (1995). Reduction of serum cholesterol with sitostanol-ester margarine in a mildly hypercholesterolemic population. New England Journal of Medicine, 333(20): 1308.
  • Weingarter O, et al. (2008). Vascular effects of diet supplementation with plant sterols. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 51(16): 1553.
  • Weststrate JA, Meijer GW (1998). Plant sterol-enriched margarines and reduction of plasma total-and HDL-cholesterol concentrations in normocholesterolaemic and mildly hypercholesterolaemic subjects. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 52(5): 334.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Marc S. Micozzi, MD, PhD - Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Last Revised May 9, 2012

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