Are your consumers watching their fats for heart health? Why not “block” cholesterol?

Carol Lowry
Senior applications scientist,
Cargill Health and Nutrition

Consumers are demanding great tasting foods to enlist in the fight against heart disease, the No. 1 killer of both men and women in America. Elevated blood cholesterol is a major risk factor in the development of heart disease. The CoroWise® brand of plant sterols, which are structurally similar to cholesterol in the human body, can help. Plant sterols may reduce the risk of heart disease when paired with a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol.

Plant sterols, also called phytosterols, occur naturally in all plants. While you can get plant sterols from eating vegetables, fruits, seeds and nuts, products containing CoroWise are also an easy option.

Clinical evidence over the past 50 years has consistently demonstrated that consumption of plant sterols blocks the intestinal absorption of cholesterol and reduces low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad") cholesterol by 8% to 15%. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), "There is significant scientific agreement that plant sterols reduce total and LDL cholesterol levels."

For example, in a study conducted at the University of California, Davis, researchers gave study subjects 1 gram of plant sterols in 8 ounces of orange juice twice daily for 8 weeks. Subjects included both men and women with normal or borderline-high total cholesterol. Total cholesterol decreased approximately 8%, while and LDL cholesterol dropped nearly 13%.

Plant sterols can be added to foods and beverages with no effect on taste or texture. I’ve worked with customers to incorporate it into great tasting bakery goods and snacks, milk, juice, margarine, salad dressings, pasta and dietary supplements. Examples of products currently on the market include Minute Maid® Heart Wise® orange juice, Racconto® Essentials Pasta and VitaTops™ muffin tops.

Many of our U.S. customers are currently transitioning to comply with FDA’s proposed rule on the phytosterol health claim, which will soon increase the minimum amount of plant sterols required per serving of a product bearing the claim from 0.4 grams to 0.5 grams. A daily total plant sterol intake of 2 grams is encouraged (compared to 0.8 grams previously) to reduce the risk of heart disease, according to the claim. 

As more and more consumers look for dietary approaches to cholesterol management, I look forward to continuing to partner closely with customers to create great tasting products containing plant sterols to fill that need.

Carol Lowry, senior applications scientist with Cargill Health and Nutrition, has worked at Cargill for nine of her 27 years in the food industry.