Considerable research continues to focus on cholesterol-lowering foods. Indeed, food industry executives polled by Reuters Business Insight last year predicted that by 2009, cholesterol-lowering foods would be the most profitable health food, far ahead of recently trendy products such as low-carb foods.
The new randomized double-blind parallel-group study, published on-line in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (doi: 10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602445), looks at the effect of a stanol-enriched low-fat cheese of the cholesterol levels of 67 volunteers with mild hypercholesterolaemia.
High cholesterol levels, hypercholesterolaemia, have a long association with many diseases, particularly cardiovascular disease (CVD), the cause of almost 50 per cent of deaths in Europe, and reported to cost the EU economy an estimated €169bn ($202bn) per year.
The volunteers (24 men, 43 women) were randomly assigned to either the stanol group, which consumed a cheese enriched with 2 g of plant stanols per day, or a control group (a normal cheese with no plant sterols) for five weeks.
The researchers, led by Riita Korpela from the University of Helsinki and Valio, found that the stanol ester group, had lower levels of both total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, compared to the control group. Total cholesterol levels were 5.8 per cent lower, while LDL-cholesterol levels were 10.3 per cent lower.
No significant differences in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, triglycerides or apolipoprotein B concentrations were found between the groups.
These results led the researchers to conclude: "Cheese enriched with 2 g of plant stanol in the form of fatty acid esters decreases serum total and LDL cholesterol significantly."
Dairy and dietary supplements continue to dominate the cholesterol-lowering food categories. Mintel's Global New Products Database lists a total of 123 cholesterol-lowering dairy products in Europe between 1998 and 2006. The peak year was 2004 when there were 38, followed by 26 last year. Data source: Mintel's Global New Products Database