Published Research - Department of Chemistry


Date of this Version



Published in Nutrition Research 31:7 (July 2011), pp. 537–543; doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2011.06.007 Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. Used by permission.


The dietary impact of specific phytosterols incorporated into phytosterol fatty acid esters has not been elucidated. Therefore, we tested the hypothesis that phytosterol esters containing different sterol moieties (sitosterol, sitostanol, or stigmasterol) but the same fatty acid moiety (stearic acid) produce different effects on cholesterol metabolism. Male Syrian hamsters were fed sitosterol, sitostanol, and stigmasterol stearate esters (25 g/kg diet) in an atherogenic diet containing cholesterol (1.2 g/kg) and coconut oil (80 g/kg). The phytosterol stearates produced no decrease in cholesterol absorption or plasma non–high-density lipoprotein cholesterol despite a reduction in liver free cholesterol in hamsters fed both sitosterol and sitostanol stearate diets. In addition, sitosterol stearate significantly increased fecal esterified and total neutral sterol excretion. Stigmasterol stearate did not differ from control in neutral sterol excretion, plasma lipids, or hepatic lipid concentration. Sitosterol stearate demonstrated the highest level of net intestinal hydrolysis, whereas sitostanol and stigmasterol stearate equivalently demonstrated the lowest. The cholesterol-lowering effect in liver—but not plasma—and the limited presence of fecal free sterols indicate that intact (unhydrolyzed) phytosterol stearates may impact cholesterol metabolism by mechanisms unrelated to the role of free phytosterols. The consumption of phytosterol esters at 2.5% of the diet elicited only modest impacts on cholesterol metabolism, although sitosterol stearate had a slightly greater therapeutic impact by lowering liver free cholesterol and increasing esterified and total neutral sterol fecal excretion, possibly due to a greater level of intestinal hydrolysis.

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