Plant sterols are structurally similar to cholesterol and compete for absorption.
First introduced as a food additive that prevented absorption of cholesterol, plant sterols are now approved by the FDA for a heart-health claim: Products containing at least 0.65 g per serving of plant sterol esters, taken twice daily with meals for a daily total intake of at least 1.3 g, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.
The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of Health suggests the use of plant sterols in conjunction with other lifestyle changes to enhance LDL cholesterol reduction. Numerous clinical trials have been performed with phytosterols and they have proven to be both safe and effective in a wide group of individuals.
Plant sterols are often included as one of the leading non-pharmacological approaches to reducing total LDL cholesterol. The overall effect in clinical studies has been an average LDL cholesterol decline of 8-15% with no adverse side effects. However, it is difficult to obtain enough sterols from food sources on a daily basis to create a cholesterol-lowering effect. Two servings of Ortho Moleculars Plant Sterols soft gel capsules provides 1.3 g of plant sterols.