Does Beta-Sitosterol Work?
Beta-sitosterol is used in many dietary supplements and functional foods, but many people still wonder if beta-sitosterol works. While people take beta-sitosterol products for a variety of conditions, the only accepted medical uses of the plant sterol are for high cholesterol and an enlarged prostate. The effectiveness of beta-sitosterol for other uses has not been studied or established.
Beta-sitosterol is a phytosterol (plant sterol) found in low amounts in various foods. It is used in dietary supplements and functional foods, such as margarines or spreads designed to lower cholesterol. Like many dietary supplements, beta-sitosterol is claimed to be useful for a wide variety of different conditions, some without much scientific evidence. People take beta-sitosterol for the following uses:
- Lowering high cholesterol
- Treating an enlarged prostate (also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH)
- Treating gallstones
- Enhancing sexual performance
- Boosting the immune system
- Treating the common cold and the flu
- Treating asthma
- Relieving menopause symptoms
- Helping with hair loss or baldness.
Research has shown that plant sterols (including beta-sitosterol) lower cholesterol. Beta-sitosterol lowers both LDL cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol) and total cholesterol levels. In general, studies show that plant sterols (usually in the forms of margarines or spreads) can lower LDL cholesterol about 5 to 15 percent and can lower total cholesterol by about 2 to 10 percent. Beta-sitosterol does not have much effect on HDL ("good" cholesterol).
Research also suggests that beta-sitosterol may help relieve the symptoms of an enlarged prostate. In general, studies showed that it may help relieve the urinary symptoms of an enlarged prostate, but does not shrink the prostate.
There is not enough evidence to suggest that beta-sitosterol is beneficial for any other use.