A Plant Food–Based Diet Modifies the Serum β-Sitosterol Concentration in Hyperandrogenic Postmenopausal Women
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Plant sterols or phytosterols are common components of plant foods, especially plant oils, seeds and nuts, cereals and legumes. The most common phytosterols are campesterol, beta-sitosterol and stigmasterol. Phytosterols have anticarcinogenic properties. Previous studies have suggested that populations with low breast cancer incidence often consume diets high in phytosterols. The present study evaluated whether consumption of a plant food-based diet, low in animal fat, may increase serum phytosterol levels in postmenopausal women. One hundred and four women volunteers were randomized to dietary intervention or control groups. The dietary intervention included intensive dietary counseling to replace animal products with plant-based foods. Subjects in the dietary intervention group participated twice a week for 18 wk in workshops about the preparation and consumption of a plant food-based diet. The absolute change in serum total phytosterol concentration was greater in the dietary intervention group than in the control group. The percent change tended to differ between groups (P = 0.06). However, only for beta-sitosterol did the absolute and percent changes within a group differ significantly between groups (P = 0.0017). The decrease in serum total cholesterol in the dietary intervention group (-14%) was greater than that in the control group (-4%; P = 0.0005). The results of this study show that circulating levels of phytosterols can be affected by dietary modification. These findings indicate that phytosterols, in particular beta-sitosterol, can be used as biomarkers of exposure in observational studies or as compliance indicators in dietary intervention studies of cancer prevention.
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