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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.
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.footnote 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.
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 breastfeeding.
When using dietary supplements, keep in mind the following:
Wilt TJ, et al. (1999). Beta-sitosterols for benign prostatic hyperplasia. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (3).
Other Works Consulted
Bradford PG, Awad AB (2007). Phytosterols as anticancer compounds. Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, 51(2): 161–70.
Weingarter O, et al. (2008). Vascular effects of diet supplementation with plant sterols. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 51(16): 1553.
Current as of: December 20, 2019
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: December 20, 2019
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
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