CARDIOPROTECTIVE EFFECTS OF PHYTOSTEROLSAbstract
Foods and nutrients play a vital role in normal functioning of the body. They are helpful in maintaining the health of the individual and in reducing the risk of various diseases. Worldwide acceptance of this fact formed a recognition link between “nutrition” and “health” and the concept of “nutraceuticals” has evolved. More than any other disease, the etiology of cardiovascular disease reveals many risk factors that are amenable to nutraceutical intervention. The scientific literature shows that there are several bioactive ingredients that are present in small amounts in plants that can affect mammalian biological processes relevant to cardiovascular disease and other common human diseases. The ability of bioactive ingredients to positively influence cardiovascular risk factors should be recognized as an enormous opportunity in the treatment of a highly prevalent disease. Nutraceuticals hold promise in clinical therapy as they have the potential to significantly reduce the risk of side effects associated with drugs and pills along with reducing the global health care cost. Common ingredients that have been studied include soluble fiber (from oats and psyllium); long-chain omega-3 fatty acids; plant sterols or phytosterols; polyphenols (from dark chocolate, red wine, green tea, or extravirgin olive oil); isoflavones from soy; Chinese red-yeast rice; and probiotics from dairy products. Amongst this vast array of bioactives, there is emerging evidence indicating role of phytosterols in mitigating risk of cardiovascular disease and promoting general health and well-being. Phytosterols are cholesterol-like molecules found in all plant foods. They are absorbed only in trace amounts but inhibit the absorption of intestinal cholesterol including recirculating endogenous biliary cholesterol, a key step in cholesterol elimination. In this review, an attempt has been made to summarize some of the recent research findings on phytosterols that have beneficial effects on the heart, in order to update the practicing clinician on the benefit of using phytosterols for the management of cardiovascular diseases.