Extra Carotenoids Can Compensate for Nutritional Effects of Cholesterol-Lowering Margarines

Source: VERIS Research Information Service

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Extra Carotenoids Can Compensate for Nutritional Effects of Cholesterol-Lowering Margarines

BACKGROUND: Margarines enriched with plant sterols or stanols can lower cholesterol levels in people eating high-fat diets. These substances, which are naturally found in vegetables in very low concentrations, reduce absorption of cholesterol in the digestive tract. However, consuming sterol- and stanol-enriched margarines also reduces blood levels of carotenoids, an important fat-soluble group of antioxidants that includes beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene.

RESEARCH: The objective of the study was to determine whether increased intake of carotenoids would compensate for the carotenoid-lowering effect of the sterol- and stanol-containing margarines. Researchers asked 46 subjects with elevated cholesterol levels to eat one of three low-fat diets for three weeks each, in succession: a diet including sterol-enriched margarine, a second including stanol-enriched margarine, and a third with a plain margarine (free of either sterols or stanols). The subjects were also asked to eat five or more servings of high-carotenoid vegetables and fruits, including carrots, sweet potatoes, and spinach.

RESULTS: Subjects reduced their LDL cholesterol levels by roughly 7.7 to 9.5 percent when they used the cholesterol-lowering margarines. By eating one extra carotenoid-rich vegetable, the subjects were able to increase their blood carotenoid levels on plain margarine and avoid any reduction in blood carotenoid levels when consuming the sterol- or stanol-enriched margarine.

IMPLICATIONS: This study shows that increased consumption of carotenoid-containing vegetables and fruit can offset the
carotenoid-lowering effect of some margarines. It is likely that a mixed-carotenoid supplement would have a similar effect. Supplements may be warranted for people who consume cholesterol-lowering margarines, but do not eat many fruits and vegetables.

Noakes M, Clifton P, Ntanios F, et al. "An increase in dietary carotenoids when consuming plant sterols or stanols is effective in maintaining plasma carotenoid concentrations," American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2002;75:79-86.

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