First Oral Supplement to Use Natural Plant Sterols to Lower Cholesterol Approved in Canada

TORONTO, Aug. 12 - For the first time in Canada, naturally occurring plant sterols found in soy bean and sunflower plants are available as an oral supplement to lower cholesterol. Swiss Vegapure(R), a natural, non-prescription supplement derived from plant sterols is approved for use in Canada. Clinical trials demonstrate that plant sterols safely lower cholesterol levels by as much as 15 per cent.

Plant sterols have been studied for more than 50 years as a natural approach to cholesterol reduction. Plant sterols are fats found in plants such as soy bean and sunflower plants and have a chemical structure similar to cholesterol. Plant sterols are able to slow the absorption of cholesterol in the body, thereby reducing total blood cholesterol levels. Vegapure(R) sterol esters are clinically proven. By consuming 1.3 grams of plant sterols per day, the equivalent to two capsules of Swiss Vegapure(R), cholesterol levels were
reduced in clinical studies by eight to 15 per cent. When used in combination with cholesterol-lowering prescription medications, plant sterols, as found in Swiss Vegapure(R), have been shown to reduce cholesterol by an additional seven per cent. Clinical studies have also shown plant sterols to cause a 25 per cent reduction in heart disease.(1)

Swiss Vegapure(R) contains plant sterols that are naturally sourced and primarily produced from soybean oil. The sterols are then further modified with food grade sunflower oil fatty acids, a rich source of linoleic acid. This modification improves delivery to the small intestine, where the sterols act to impede absorption of cholesterol in the body.

Cholesterol is a fatty substance produced by the body. It is also found in a wide variety of food products including animal products, fried foods, baked goods and snacks. While cholesterol is necessary for the body to function (it is used to build cell membranes and in the production of some hormones), elevated levels dramatically increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.

"There are numerous causes of high cholesterol, including a diet high in saturated and trans fats, an inactive lifestyle, genetics, diabetes mellitus and obesity," said Dr. Ted Davies, Cardiologist, Scarborough Hospital General Division. "For Canadians who need to take control of their cholesterol levels, a healthy diet and exercise are just part of the solution. Because of unmodifiable risk factors such as family history, however, this may not be enough. Taking a natural supplement like Swiss Vegapure(R) can help the body absorb excess cholesterol and reduce total cholesterol levels."

Canadians unaware of causes and risks of high cholesterol

According to a recent Ipsos-Reid survey, the majority of Canadians are unaware of the causes of high cholesterol and its associated health risks. Additionally,
- only 14 per cent identified high cholesterol as a contributor to cardiovascular disease,
- merely 22 per cent identified genetics as a risk factor for high cholesterol,
- surprisingly, 42 per cent of Canadians under the age of 40 have never discussed their cholesterol levels with their doctors.

Despite almost half of Canadians having elevated cholesterol levels(2), the Ipsos-Reid survey also indicated that only nine per cent of Canadians are taking medication or supplements to take control of their cholesterol level.

"Because there are no detectable symptoms associated with high cholesterol, many Canadians overlook the importance of taking additional measures to lower their cholesterol," said Dr. Davies. "Canadians should find out what their cholesterol levels are so that they can take the right steps to control it."

An optimal cholesterol level is 5.2 mmol/L. At this level, the risk of heart attack is low, unless other risk factors for heart disease are present. A borderline high-risk cholesterol level is between 5.2 and 6.2 mmol/L. Patients in this range should have their cholesterol monitored every one to two years and reduce their intake of foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol. A cholesterol level of over 6.2 mmol/L is considered high risk. The likelihood of heart attack or stroke is twice that of patients who are at a level of 5.2 mmol/L.

The Ipsos-Reid/Swiss Vegapure telephone survey was conducted from July 2nd to July 5th, 2004. A representative randomly selected sample of 1000 adult Canadians was interviewed, resulting in a margin of error of (+/-) 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Visit for more information.

About Swiss Herbal Remedies Limited

Swiss Herbal Remedies Limited is one of Canada's leading producers and distributors of natural source vitamins, minerals, herbal supplements and cosmetics. With over 550 products, marketed under the Swiss Natural Sources brand name, Swiss Natural Sources has the widest range of supplement products in the Canadian marketplace.

Founded in 1962, Swiss Herbal Remedies Limited has its headquarters in Richmond Hill, Ontario, with warehouses in Montreal and Vancouver. The company has a national sales force, selling products in retail health food stores, pharmacies and nutritional outlets across Canada. Its products are also exported to markets across the world.

(1) Law M. Plant sterol and stanol margarines and health. BMJ 2000; 320: 861-4.
(2) Heart and Stroke Foundation website. Research - Cholesterol Wake-up Call. Accessed on August 9, 2004.

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