According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), plant stanols and sterols, known as phytosterols, reduce chances of heart disease. Phytosterols occur naturally in small quantities in vegetable oils. They compete with cholesterol in the digestive tract, reducing the amount of cholesterol the body absorbs. Phytosterols tend to reduce LDL, the “bad” cholesterol, and maintain HDL, the “good” cholesterol.
In one review, researchers analyzed 182 recent cholesterol-phytosterol studies and found stanols perform better than sterols. LDL cholesterol declined an average of 8 percent with sterols and 17 percent with stanols. As stanol doses increased, LDL cholesterol levels decreased, leading doctors to suggest that the FDA raise its current recommendation above 2 grams per day for plant stanols.