What they are
Phytosterols are compounds in plant foods such as rice and soybeans. The most abundant, sitosterol, is the main ingredient in Phytoquest and Cholestatin. Sitosterol prevents dietary cholesterol from being absorbed in the small intestine by blocking the cholesterol’s absorption sites.
What research shows
“Sitosterol is very effective in lowering cholesterol in the range of 10% to 15%,” says Dr. Kritchevsky. “Thirty years ago, it was actually a prescription product and the drug of choice for this purpose.”
You need to take in the range of 2,000 to 3,000 mg of phytosterols a day — a level that appears to be safe, says Dr. Kritchevsky. The amount that’s right for you depends on your cholesterol intake from food. At each meal, aim for a 2:1 ratio of phytosterols to cholesterol. For example, if the estimated amount of cholesterol in a dinner is 400 mg, you would need to take 800 mg of phytosterols immediately before the meal.
If your diet is low in cholesterol, yet your blood cholesterol level is still higher than you want it to be, these may not be the supplements for you. Since the phytosterols won’t have anything to block, the effect on your blood cholesterol level will be minimal.
You need six to eight capsules of either supplement to reach 2,000 to 3,000 mg a day (package directions call for less). A month’s supply of Cholestatin at this dosage costs about $40. A month’s supply of Phytoquest costs about $90.