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JAMA Study Suggests Equal Benefit for Strict Diet Including Plant Sterol Esters Compared to Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs

Supplementation May Fill Dietary Gap for the Majority Missing Significant Sources Of Sterols in Their Diets

LaGRANGE, Ill., July 23 -- Supplementation of plant sterols or sterol esters may be an option in lowering cholesterol for the large population who find it difficult to follow a low-fat diet or for those who prefer not to take cholesterol-lowering medications such as statins. Consumers are encouraged to consult their physicians before discontinuing use of any medications and to seek their advice in dietary alternatives.

In a new study in this week's issue of JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association(1), researchers found that a specific type of dietary intervention including plant sterol esters may lower cholesterol as much as cholesterol-lowering medications (statins).

After just four weeks, the low-fat diet with added plant sterol esters and fiber led to a 28.6 percent decrease in the "bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) form of cholesterol. Those taking statins had a 30.9 percent reduction.

David Kritchevsky, Ph.D., known as a pioneer of sterol research offered his perspective on this first study to directly compare patients on statins to those on the diet. "Optimally, diet is the first line of defense in lowering cholesterol, but adherence to a strict low-fat diet is difficult for many adults," said Dr. Kritchevsky, Ph.D., Casper Wistar Scholar at The Wistar Institute. "Inclusion of plant sterols from food products such as specially marked margarines or dietary supplements may be a safe option for people who want to lower their cholesterol without following a low-fat diet or taking prescription medicines," explained Kritchevsky, author of "Cholesterol", published in 1958, the first book on this topic.

Two years ago, the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP), part of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, recommended that 36 million Americans consider taking cholesterol-lowering medications(2). But given the reported expense and side effects of statins such as risk of infection, headache, rash and myalgia, there is growing interest in sterols and sterol esters in foods and supplements. Plant Sterols and sterol esters are found naturally in vegetables, fruit, nuts and oils. Dozens of studies, conducted in the United States and Europe, have found that plant-derived sterols, 2-3 grams per day, can lower LDL cholesterol by about 15 percent and total cholesterol by about 10 percent.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a health claim stating that sterols esters may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. To find products containing plant sterols and sterol esters, visit the dietary supplement section of your favorite supermarket, health food store or retailer.

About Cognis:

Cognis ( ) is a worldwide supplier of innovative specialty chemicals and nutritional ingredients with almost 9,000 employees in close to 50 countries. The company has dedicated its activities to a high level of sustainability and delivers natural-source raw materials and ingredients for food, nutrition and healthcare markets, and the cosmetics, detergents and cleaners industries. Additionally, Cognis provides solutions for a number of other industries, such as coatings and inks, lubricants, textiles and plastics, as well as agriculture and mining.

Cognis is owned by private equity funds advised by Permira, GS Capital Partners, and Schroder Ventures Life Sciences. In 2002, Cognis recorded sales of 3.1 billion euros and an operating profit before depreciation, amortization and exceptional items (EBITDA recurring) of 393 million euros. A turnover of 748.6 million euros was achieved in the first three months of 2003.

Cognis Nutrition & Health, a business unit of Cognis Group, provides antioxidant (including natural vegetable sterol esters), botanical and nature-based ingredients for dietary supplements; pharmaceuticals and healthcare; functional foods and medical nutrition; and animal nutrition. As a leader in food technology, Cognis manufactures emulsifiers, emulsifier-based compounds, and numerous other specialty products for the food industry worldwide.

(1) Jenkins,DJA et al. Effects of a dietary portfolio of
cholesterol-lowering foods vs lovastatin on serum lipids and
c-reactive protein. JAMA 2003;290:502-510.
(2) Kolata G, U.S. panel backs broader steps to reduce risk of heart
attacks. New York Times, May 16, 2001:A1.

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