What are Phytosterols?

Keywords; what are phytosterols, functional foods.

These are very important plant fats; they are compounds with a structure similar to that of cholesterol. They control the movement of fluids through cell membranes and are found in small quantities in every vegetable we eat.

Don't be put off by the formulation below. This isn't a lesson in organic chemistry but it may be interesting to some. Notice that cholesterol and beta sitosterol have very similar structures.

I'm a chemistry major; hence odd references to molecular formulations throughout this chiropractic site. The finer structure is important but, I think you'll agree, I do try to keep it simple.

Their similarity to cholesterol means that these compounds compete with the intestinal absorption of ordinary animal fats. Eating larger quantities of plants increases the fecal excretion that we have consumed in, say, meat and dairy products.

What's particularly interesting is that food scientists have repeatedly confirmed that phytosterols reduce the unfriendly low density lipoprotein cholesterol whilst not affect the friendly HDL form; blood levels of the latter should be as high as possible.

The high density version helps keep blood vessel walls free of atherosclerotic plaque. Everyone with a cholesterol problem should be able to give a short answer to the question, what are phytosterols?

Don't take them in pill form; they are so easy to incorporate in your diet. What could be simpler than half an avocado per day? Fill your avo with hummus and you're home and dry. 

Cholesterol lowering plant fats

Ordinary animal cholesterol + an extra ethyl group which is ringed.

The American national cholesterol education program recommends phytosterol enriched foods as part of their prevention of cardiovascular disease program.

This is where naturopathic and medical doctors find themselves poles apart. The former say we should be eating more foods that are rich in phytosterols. Medicine says we should enrich food artificially with phytosterols and take drugs to lower cholesterol; at a great profit to the drug companies. If you know what phytosterols are, you can save yourself a mint simply by including them regularly in your diet. Taking statins? Rather answer the question, what are phytosterols and make a few small alterations to your diet. 

There are many studies proving conclusively that the phytosterol compounds will reduce serum low density and total cholesterol and, what's more, in a short time.

A study at McGill University found that after only 10 days, with no change of diet, the addition of beta sitosterol had a significant effect on low density cholesterol in the blood. They concluded that these findings suggest that a significant lowering of low density and total cholesterol in the blood plasma can be achieved by a modest dietary intake of the phytosterols in a food such as soybeans, the main ingredient in tofu.

Personally, I would rather enjoy the phytosterols in avocado than soybeans which are not my favourite.  In any case avos have even more phytosterols than soybeans, and chickpeas, almonds and extra virgin olive oil are also particularly rich according to webMD.  They recommend aiming for 2000 mg per day, but the average American diet has less than a quarter of that. No wonder so many are taking statins. 

Functional Foods

Phytosterols are considered to be functional foods, meaning that they have health promoting and disease preventing properties.

They not only improve the health of blood vessels but there are numerous studies confirming their anti cancer nature; particularly of the breast, prostate and colon. More, they have powerful anti oxidant properties.

The phytosterol beta sitosterol and the prostate gland are often mentioned in the same sentence. 

Conditions like prostatitis which is now recognised very frequently to be a non infective condition, benign hypertrophy which is really just an enlarged gland, and the cancer which is the leading fatal malignancy of men, are all common in older men; the latter tends to metastasizes to the pelvis and spine; they occur regularly and are particularly nasty.

The maximum urinary flow rate at which men can pee is reduced by prostate enlargement.

Squaws wouldn't understand perhaps since they tend to have the exact opposite problem; a leaking bladder is a known side effect of having taken post menopausal hormone replacement therapy. In brave talk, men have an air lock; it's difficult to initiate urination, and the stream is weak and slow. It takes for ever to have a sweet pee.

Perhaps worse, braves are unable to empty their bladders completely. The post void residual volume of urine is increased, meaning they have to pee more often, and frequently have to get up several times at night. Disturbed sleep leads to other problems, not least of which is short term memory loss. The stagnated urine leads to bladder infections too.

Non bacterial prostatitis, also called chronic pain pelvic syndrome, doesn't respond to antibiotics. It's a nasty condition causing men to visit the toilet more often, with urgency as they are unable to empty their bladders. In short, men suffer from difficult, painful and frequent urination.

It responds best perhaps to a prostate massage; a non painful but awkward and awkward procedure by which your doctor, and some chiropractors, cross friction the prostate, via the anus, for about two minutes to squeeze out the excess fluid. For my money, that's what I would do, rather than have an operation to excise it which often leads to impotence. You're looking at a two minute embarrassment once a month as compared to the risk of permanent impotence? For me it's a no brainer.

Better still, and preferably before the symptoms start, start today making sure you are eating adequate quantities of phytosterols.

However, in the event that you have already started with chronic prostate problems, there is very interesting research that beta sitosterol, a common phytosterol, has a very significant effect on urine flow.

A typical avocado weighing about 170 grams would contain roughly 130 mg of beta sitosterol according to Duester, writing in the journal of the American dietetic association.

In a powerful randomised, double blind, placebo controlled project, the gold standard of research, men gained dramatic relief within six weeks from taking 130 mg of beta sitosterol daily. Not only did their symptoms decrease, but the residual urine in the bladder as determined by ultrasound scans and the flow rate improved dramatically.

Eating natural phytosterols as in avocados has no side effects; however there are concerns about taking it in pill form as there is also inhibition of the absorption of the fat soluble vitamins such as vitamin E. It's a completely natural substance that you should be eating every day. They are God's gift to the prostate.

A person enjoying plenty of fruits and salads might eat nearly 1000 mg of phytosterols, of which a large portion is beta sitosterol per day, but the meat and potatoes man might have almost none.

Beta sitosterol

Research concludes that beta sitosterol is an effective treatment for benign prostatic hypertrophy.


There was significant improvements when comparing the treatment of benign prostatic hypertrophy with beta sitosterol as compared to a placebo; the  quality of life especially was much improved. There were also significant improvements in the maximum urinary flow rate, and a decrease in the post voidal residue in those treated with beta sitosterol. 

The conclusions of the researchers is as follows; these results show that phytosterols and in particular beta sitosterol are effective in the treatment of a benign enlarged protstate.

Phytosterols and varicose ulcers, haemorrhoids 

A proprietary gel called MELLADERM, which contains beta-sitosterol and honey has dramatic effects on varicose ulcers. VARICOSE VEINS IN LEGS ...

What are phytosterols? Sesame seeds.

The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reports the amounts of phytosterols present in nuts and seeds.

Sesame seeds have the highest total phytosterol content (~ 400 mg per 100 grams), sunflower seeds (280 mg/100 g), pumpkin seeds (265 mg/100 g).

The main problem with sesame seeds is that you have to "fletcherise" to get the nutritional value from them. Chew each mouthful 32 times! The best alternative is to grind them in a cheap coffee grinder and make them into Tahini, a sort of sesame "peanut butter", only nicer,  and not spoiled with the addition of sugar, chemicals and hydrogenated oils.

Tahini is widely used in the Middle East in various foods such as hummus. Rich in phytosterols. What is sesame tahini?


Various seed oils such as sunflower, rapeseed (Canola) and corn oil are also rich in phytosterols, and are in fact one of the best sources. Phytosterol sitosterol (beta) is one of the most abundant of these cholesterol-lowering plant phytosterols.

This phytosterol complex is particularly heat labile; they are easily destroyed by high temperatures.

Extraction of these seed oils involves multiple chemical extractions, heating to very high temperatures, refining, degumming and bleaching which results in a loss of 10-70% (Kochhar, 1983; Phillips et al., 2002) of the phytosterol in comparison with their crude oils, or just enjoying the freshly ground seeds. A simple coffee grinder in every kitchen for grinding seeds and spices is a must.

Furthermore, Piironenen et al found that the refining regimen causes significant oxidation and other intermolecular transformations of phytosterols.

Try and find cold pressed oils. Better still, grind your sunflower seeds and enjoy olive oil; it's all cold pressed.

Everyone with a cholesterol problem needs to be able to answer the question, what are phytosterols?


Farquhar et al. found that artificially adding a beta-sitosterol extract made food products unpalatable and unmarketable. Its chemical properties make it "difficult and inefficient" as a food additive. For more details read this link Biocatalysis and biomolecular engineering.


It really shouldn't be necessary for us to take extra phytosterols. If we eat them every day, we are far less likely to get raised cholesterol, prostate hyperplasia, haemorrhoids, varicose ulcers and many cancers.

They are found in all vegetables, salads, seeds and cold pressed oils. Fruit oils, from the olive and avocado too are rich in beta-sitosterol - up to 2%.

Can you now answer the question, what are phytosterols?


Here's the deal. Why wait until you get cancer or prostate problems? PROSTATE GLAND HEALTH is a vital subject for every male, for every woman too if loss of her male's libido is important to her!

Why wait for varicose veins ulcers? Now is time to increase your cancer and cholesterol lowering plant phytosterols, and to think about a natural cure for varicose veins. Now is the time, TODAY, to start, for example by looking through our HEALTHY LIVING TIPS ...

Prevention is better than a cure, eh! If you enjoy cooking, even if you don't, then you might dip into these EASY SOUP RECIPES. They are loaded with phytosterol sitosterol and its 250 first cousins, all there waiting for you, in the prevention of cancer and other diseases. They are also full of soluble fibre, the good stuff that prevents constipation, surely one of the greatest evils that besets the large bowel. A friend confided in me: having an operation for piles is like having a roll of barbed-wire stuck up your rear-end. Rather what are phytosterols.

So, now you know what are phytosterols ...

A phytosterol lunch

Did you know that you can literally make your own authentic hummus recipe in only four minutes? Well, that's my record; it's very cheap. I make 500ml of hummus twice a week. Chickpeas and freshly ground sesame seeds, the chief ingredients of hummus, make this into a phytosterol lunch! This my lunch today...

Whole wheat incidently is listed amongst those foods containing the greatest amount of phytosterol. Baking your own low GI bread is a cinch if you have a bread maker.

So, hummus made with chickpeas, olive oil and sesame paste, fresh whole wheat bread and avocado, salads... more than enough phytosterols to earn the butter on your bread. In any case, scientists have now agreed that butter is back

Hummus and humus! @ What are phytosterols?


The key to healthy vegetables and fruit from the garden is humus, the break down product of your garden cuttings and clippings, plus all the vegetable waste like apple cores, eggs shells and potato peels from your kitchen. It's really not difficult, though turning the compost pile takes a bit of muscle work. Beats going to the gym. STARTING A COMPOST PILE ...

Hummus acts a wonderful phytogen, or flavour enhancer, to your meal. It makes an perhaps otherwise chewy salad meal palatable. In spring you may have avocados in abundance, but in the autumn there is an abundance of coloured salads from the organic garden. Can you count 10 coloured foods, all rich in phytosterols?

You may say, I don't possibly have the time to grow all these vegetables. True, I'm semi retired, but I also find time to treat half a dozen patients in need of chiropractic help most days, go gliding on Saturdays, trout fishing this weekend, and I've started my next book in The Family Affair series. The space created for gardening is made by turning the television OFF! Not that I don't watch some sport and the odd film.

That's cheese and pickled jalapenos on our low GI bread on the left. A rich, very filling and non fattening meal. Only the butter on the bread is slightly questionable; I won't eat margarine, but I could have used olive oil on the bread, it's true. When you eat as many foods that lower cholesterol that we enjoy, then you certainly don't have to fuss with statins and worry about raised cholesterol.

Two kinds of lettuce, young spinach, sweet basil, fresh corn on the cob, picked only half an hour ago, radishes, pepperdews, tomatoes without pesticides, hummus with parsley and mint.

As one surgeon put it, rather neatly, if we got back to eating the foods that our grandmothers served, rather than what our mothers taught us to eat, we wouldn't have those heart problems.

A lunch like this fully answers the what are phytosterols question.

Did you find this page useful? Then perhaps forward it to a suffering friend. Better still, Tweet or Face Book it.

Interesting challenges of the day

1. Mrs B has had one of the nastiest of conditions; vertigo caused by a disturbance in the inner ear. Falling repeatedly and vomiting she consulted her doctor but medication didn't help. After two sessions of the Epley manoeuvres she was 50 percent better. After two weeks she was 75 percent improved; no longer vomiting or falling. She's not enjoying the Brandt Daroff home exercises.

2. Mr S, a 48 year old man, has right low back pain, groin pain and a numb feeling in his lower leg when he sports. For six months he's been off football. He too has two problems; a very treatable lumbar facet syndrome and a very serious blocked artery in the groin; it's called intermittent claudication. Smokers beware.  

3. Mr S looks like the leaning tower of Pisa; he has a slipped disc at L5 making him lean towards the opposite side. It's called the postero lateral disc hernia; we'll fix it, but he has to stop for a week or two. Antalgias are serious so take them seriously. 

4. Mrs V too has two conditions; a chronic low grade sciatica giving her an ache in the right leg, and a threatening Morton's neuroma. She's glad I'm back in Holland; chiropractic fixed it before, and we'll fix it again. 

5. Mrs W is one of the lucky ones, says her doctor. I agree. He says only 40% of patients with lumbar stenosis have a successful operation. We fixed a nasty slipped disc three years ago, but it came back two years later; the surgeon did a fine job but she has a weak ankle now giving her subtalar joint pain; it's routine stuff. 

6. I myself had an acute exacerbation of a femoral nerve lesion last year. One immediate treatment of the new strain by my colleague has fixed the pain in the lower back, but there's some residual numbness in the lower leg; no soaring tomorrow alas.

7. This lady is a 86 year old woman with a 63 scoliosis. Chronic lower back has been her lot in life but she's well pleased with chiropractic and comes for chiropractic help once a month; some conditions you can never cure.

8. She is an 78 year old woman, is doing remarkably well with a bad sciatica. But over 200 pounds she is not losing weight; in fact, gaining despite my suggestions. She's high risk for a stroke. I have referred her to a dietician to crack the whip.

9. A 61 year old man with upper cervical pain yesterday; it's not severe but also not getting better of its own accord. He's afraid it may turn very acute as when I treated him three years ago. Since then it's been fine. 

10. A 64 year old woman has had scheuermanns disease; it's left her with a spinal kyphosis and chronic middorsal pain. She responds well to chiropractic treatment provides she come every six weeks or so for maintenance treatment.

11. Mrs C has been having severe headaches, and taking a lot of analgesics. It's a non complicated upper cervical facet syndrome, and she's doing well.

12. Mrs D, a middle aged woman with hip pain of one year duration, despite other treatment. Xrays reveal an impingement syndrome and early hip arthritis. There's much to be done.

13. Mr D, a 71 year old man, has a severe ache in the shoulder and midback since working above his head. Trapped nerve tests are negative but he has advanced degenerative joints of Luschka; after just two treatments he is 50 percent better. Can we reach 90?

And so the day goes; chiropractors shouldn't be treating the elderly most medical sites state but that's so much bunkum.

Have a problem that's not getting better? Looking for a different slant on your pain? Want to pose a question?

Interesting questions from visitors

CLS writes:

Greetings, Dr B.
You helped me quite some time back with a soothing and professional response which turned out to be exactly correct. I now consult a local chiropractor. You write a superb newsletter, too.

Your own unresolved problem. Pose a question

Knowing that up to 70% of the time the correct diagnosis is made with no examination, no special tests, no xrays, but just from the history, there's a fair chance I can add some insight to your unresolved problem. But at least 30% of the time, I may be quite wrong! Give plenty of detail if you want a sensible reply.

You visited this chiropractic help site no doubt because you have a problem that is not resolving and want to know more about what chiropractors do.

The quickest and most interesting way is to read one of my ebooks of anecdotes. Described by a reader as gems, both funny and healthful, from the life and work of a chiropractor, you'll love them. Priced right at $2.99, though Kindle fiddles the price without telling me.