No research has been conducted on beta-sitosterol and breastfeeding, so it is not known whether it is safe for such women to use the product. Because beta-sitosterol may have some effects on hormones, there is reason to believe that it could cause problems in a breastfeeding woman or her infant. Due to these potential risks, women who are breastfeeding are typically advised to avoid beta-sitosterol supplements.
Beta-Sitosterol and Breastfeeding: An Overview
Beta-sitosterol is a plant sterol (a compound chemically similar to cholesterol). It is found in low amounts in various foods and is added to some dietary supplements and "functional foods," such as margarines or spreads designed to lower cholesterol. It is not known if beta-sitosterol from dietary supplements or functional foods is safe for breastfeeding women. However, it is assumed that a normal intake of beta-sitosterol from non-enhanced foods is safe.
Beta-Sitosterol While Breastfeeding: What Does the Research Say?
There is no research to suggest that beta-sitosterol is either safe or unsafe for breastfeeding women. Because beta-sitosterol may have some effect on hormones, specifically testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT), there is reason to believe that it could potentially cause problems in a breastfeeding woman or her infant, especially if taken at high doses.
The only accepted medical uses of beta-sitosterol are for high cholesterol and an enlarged prostate, problems that are not likely to occur in women of childbearing age. Since there is likely little benefit of beta-sitosterol for breastfeeding women, and since the risks are not known, it is generally recommended that breastfeeding women avoid taking beta-sitosterol products.
Talking With Your Healthcare Provider About Beta-Sitosterol and Breastfeeding
You should talk with your healthcare provider about beta-sitosterol and breastfeeding. Each woman's situation is different, and you and your healthcare provider understand your situation best. After considering what you want and expect, as well as your current health situation, the two of you can make a shared decision about beta-sitosterol and breastfeeding that is right for you.
Written by/reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last reviewed by: KristiMonson, PharmD;
List of references (click here):
Jellin JM, editor. Pharmacist's Letter/Prescriber's Letter Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Web site. Available at: http://naturaldatabase.com/. Accessed January 17, 2008.
Berger A, Jones PJ, Abumweis SS. Plant sterols: Factors affecting their efficacy and safety as functional food ingredients. Lipids Health Dis 2004;3:5.
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