Phytosterols and cholesterol

What are phytosterols?

Phytosterols or phytosterols are substances of the sterol group. They occur exclusively as esters and glucosides in plants, and their richest parts are fat. Structurally they resemble cholesterol, which is present in all humans and animals[1].

What are the chemical properties of phystosterols?

Phytosterols belong to the group of sterols, which is a subgroup of steroids. They are all so-called polycyclic (poly-multiple / cyclic-ring) molecules, where the phytosterols are alcohols. They are similar to cholesterol, as well as the sex hormones testosterone and estrogen. It occurs only in plants (phyto - vegetable), and there in the fat-rich parts, such as the seeds[2].

What are the properties and uses of phytosterols?

Fig. 2 The β-sitosterol molecule

Phytosterols are used to lower blood cholesterol levels, while stimulating the production of cholesterol, increasing the total amount in the body, but binding it down, which lowers the cholesterol concentration in the blood. As a negative effect, phytosterols may inhibit the absorption of fat soluble vitamins (e.g., A and E), which should prevent pregnant women, nursing women, children up to 5 years, and those with phytosterinemia from phytosterols. Phytosterols are also used medically to reduce skin irritation and itching. The most common phytosterol we ingest through diet is β-sitosterol at 65%. In cosmetics they are used as emulsifier [3]

What is cholesterol and what does it do?

Cholesterol is an important component of the cell membrane, it increases its strength and helps to guide messenger substances into the cell and out of the cell. The body also converts cholesterol to the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone. The body produces 90% of its cholesterol itself. Increased cholesterol levels can lead to heart attacks and gallstones, so a balanced diet is important to keep cholesterol levels at a healthy level. It has long been investigated whether low cholesterol levels are responsible for a higher degree of violence, poorer memory, increased levels of stress and also the frequency of nightmares[4].

Sources:

Wikipedia[1]

Report on the errors of cholesterol[4]

Scientific article of the Institute of Nutritional Physiology on phytosterols[2][3]

 

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