There is currently no evidence that it is safe for pregnant women to take beta-sitosterol. Pregnancy problems could theoretically occur, since beta-sitosterol decreases the amount of DHT in the body, which is important for male genital development. If you are taking beta-sitosterol and pregnancy occurs, talk to your healthcare provider about whether you should continue to take the product.
Beta-Sitosterol and Pregnancy: An Overview
Beta-sitosterol is a plant sterol found in various foods. It is also used in some dietary supplements and is added to "functional foods," such as margarines, spreads, or juices designed to lower cholesterol. Although a normal intake of beta-sitosterol through a healthy diet is considered safe, foods or supplements with added plant sterols or stanols, including beta-sitosterol, are usually not recommended for pregnant women.
Is Beta-Sitosterol Safe During Pregnancy?
There is no evidence that beta-sitosterol products are either safe or unsafe for pregnant women. Theoretically, beta-sitosterol could cause problems based on its effects on certain hormones. It may block the conversion of testosterone into DHT (dihydrotestosterone), thereby decreasing the amount of DHT in the body. Since DHT is important for male genital development, high doses of beta-sitosterol could theoretically cause problems, such as abnormalities of the external genitals of a male fetus.
Beta-Sitosterol and Pregnancy: Final Thoughts
If you are pregnant, it is always a good idea to have a discussion with your healthcare provider before taking any medication or supplement or even functional food, including beta-sitosterol products. 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 probably little benefit from beta-sitosterol for pregnant women, and since the risks are unknown, it is generally not recommended that pregnant women take beta-sitosterol products.
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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