Plant stanol ester, the cholesterol-lowering ingredient in Benecol products, is safe and more effective when consumed in quantities several times above the currently recommended amount, according to new research.
Raisio, the Finnish company which produces Benecol, commissioned two studies to examine the effects of a daily dose of up to 9g of plant stanols. The current recommended daily dose is 2g.
In a study conducted at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, subjects had slightly elevated cholesterol levels and consumed yoghurt and vegetable margarine fortified with plant stanol ester daily for four weeks. In the study groups, the intake of plant stanols was 3, 6 or 9g per day. A control group consumed similar products that were not fortified with plant stanol ester.
In a study carried out at the University of Kuopio in Finland, subjects with slightly elevated cholesterol levels consumed an oat drink and spread fortified with plant stanol ester (plant stanols 9g/day) for ten weeks or similar control products with no plant stanol ester.
Both studies showed that a daily dose of 9 of plant stanols achieved a greater reduction in 'bad' LDL cholesterol than had been assumed based on the results of previous studies. In both studies the LDL cholesterol dropped by more than 17% compared with the control group. The large daily dose of plant stanol ester did not cause any adverse side effects.
Professor Helena Gylling, who headed the study at the University of Kuopio, said: "A daily dose of 2g of plant stanols can achieve a clinically significant reduction in total and LDL cholesterol levels. For most consumers of Benecol products, this continues to be the optimum dosage, and also the costs remain reasonable.
"However, now it has been shown that plant stanol ester's effect in preventing the absorption of cholesterol and thus also its effect of reducing blood cholesterol level are boosted with larger doses of plant stanol. Compared to a daily dose of 2-3g of plant stanols, a larger dose of plant stanol is still just as safe."
Raiso said the results of the studies "refute the assumptions that there are no added benefits of consuming plant stanol ester in doses higher than the current recommendation or that increased consumption could potentially have adverse effects."