‘Healthy’ plant sterols may pose risk to aged

July 15th, 2008 - 2:30 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, July 15 (IANS) Plant sterols are known to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease, but they may pose a risk for the elderly, according to a study. Plant sterols block the absorption of dietary cholesterol and, as such, vegetable diets and plant sterol supplements are often used to alleviate high cholesterol.

But, as people age, they tend to also accumulate plant sterols, resulting in aortic-valve stenosis (AS) - or the forming of these sterols in the valve between the left ventricle and aorta that impedes the flow of blood and puts extra pressure on the heart.

About 2 percent of individuals over 65 — and over 5 percent of those over 85 — have AS, and as the population ages, it is becoming an increasing problem, according to the study, published in the latest issue of the Journal of Lipid Research.

The study, led by researcher Satu Helske, collected blood samples from 82 patients with severe AS and aortic valves from 21 individuals undergoing valve surgery, along with respective controls.

They observed that non-cholesterol sterols, including plant sterols, accumulate in aortic valves, and at levels that directly related to their blood concentration.

These findings suggest that beneficial plant sterols may end up becoming a risk factor for AS, although the researchers will need to conduct more studies, such as whether dietary sterols and sterol supplements produce different effects.

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