PLANT STEROLINS & STEROLS -
NATURE'S GIFT TO OUR HEALTH
Plant sterolins (also called phytosterols) and sterols are among the many phytochemicals (biologically active molecules isolated from plants) which have, in recent years, stimulated research into the healing and protective effects of plants. Both sterols and sterolins were identified as early as 1922. Researchers in Germany studied them in the 1930's for their cholesterol-lowering properties. However, it was not until several decades later that their real value was discovered.
Plant sterolins and sterols are plant "fats", present in every single plant (fruits and vegetables). Although chemically very similar to the animal fat cholesterol, they are totally different in biological functions. In the natural state, they are bound to the fibers of the plant. Because of this, they are difficult to separate from the fibers during the normal transit of digested food through our bodies, particularly in older people whose digestion is less effective than that of a younger person.
It is also important to note that the modern “Western” diet is low in fresh plant materials (vegetables and fruits), due to our love of fast food, our heavy consumption of meats, and the lack of sufficient fruits and vegetables in our diets.
WHY PLANT STEROLS & STEROLINS ARE SO IMPORTANT
About 100 studies conducted during the last 30 years linked plant sterols to enhanced immune system function. Further studies achieved in the 1980's confirmed their cholesterol-lowering effect. Essentially, plant sterols can lower cholesterol levels by 10% to 15%. In 1986, Professor Karl Pegel, a foremost world authority on sterols and sterolins from the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, found that a combination of sterols and sterolins was clinically more effective than either of the components used individually, meaning that a synergistic effect was involved.
"There are no known negative side effects from the intake of plant sterols and sterolins," says Professor Pegel. "As quite a number of diseases are related to immune system dysfunctions, sterols and sterolins have a beneficial effect on cancer prevention, rheumatoid arthritis, etc. There is also evidence that they alleviate the ill-effects of radiation and chemotherapy, making the life of cancer patients more bearable. Clinical trials done in Stellenbosch have shown that HIV infected patients cope better with the infection and can improve their odds of not developing full blown AIDS when supplementing with sterols and sterolins."
During the 1990's, plant fat was found to have the ability to reduce the severity of symptoms in many diseases, as well as give the immune system a needed boost. Sterol products, sold as 'immune enhancers', appeared on the market in the mid-1990's.
Sterols and sterolins have been shown to modulate the functions of the T cells both in vitro and in vivo by enhancing their cellular division and their secretion of the important regulatory soluble factors called lymphokines (IL2 and gIFN). It is important to note that only the function of the so-called TH1cells seem to be enhanced, leaving the activity of the TH2 helper cells unaffected. This is crucial because it is these specific lymphokines which are responsible for controlling the activity of the B cells. Both IL2 and IFN-g are able to switch off the release of the lymphokines which help the B cells to make antibodies.
The FDA has approved the following statement for phytosterols:
"Foods containing at least 0.4 gram per serving of plant sterols, eaten twice a day with meals for a daily total intake of at least 0.8 gram, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease."