It is difficult to cross dairy products without seeing yogurt and margarine enriched with plant sterolsor omega-3 stamped “to lower cholesterol”.
In pharmacy or on the net, these substances are found in food supplements. Someone who has an excess of cholesterol might be tempted to turn to this type of product thinking they are more harmless than drugs, especially statins. Is this really the case? The answers differ depending on the compound.
Phytosterols: a drop of about 10% that poses question
Phytosterols block the intestinal absorption of cholesterol, a dose of 1.5 to 2.5 g / day resulting in a 10 to 14% decrease in blood LDL-cholesterol.
“This could have an interest in cholesterol, including a statin supplement since the mechanism is different, the latter targeting the synthesis of cholesterol,” recognizes the cardiologist François Paillard. So, that’s all benefit? Not necessarily.
“We have experimented with enriched yogurts: they reduce cholesterol, but they increase the level of phytosterols in the blood very significantly in all those who consume,” says Professor Bruno Vergès.
And they reduce the level of antioxidant vitamins, especially carotenoids, which help fight the harmful effects of free radicals.
The impact of this phenomenon is not yet known, but doctors know that the higher the level of phytosterols in the blood, the higher the cardiovascular risk.
“An excess of phytosterols in the blood causes extravascular deposits of sterols and significantly increases the risk of atheroma,” worries Professor Vergès.
No effect on prevention of cardiovascular disease
Finally, no study has shown that these fortified foods (Cholégram, Danacol for the best known) or food supplements (Bakol Fort, Ergysterol, Phytosterol complex …), reducing cholesterol, reduce cardiovascular risk.
“For all these reasons, their use for” therapeutic “purpose does not appear to be recommended,” explains the specialist.
This is also the conclusion of the National Agency for Food Safety (ANSES) in a notice published in June 2014 . She also reminds that these foods enriched in phytosterols are not recommended for children, pregnant and lactating women.
Red rice yeast: a complement under high surveillance
Red yeast rice contains monacolin K, a natural statin . “Its effects are similar to those of a statin, its possible disadvantages too,” says Dr. Paillard. It is mainly muscle pain, more rarely hepatic disturbances. “
These unwanted recipes led ANSES to renew in March 2014 its warning : it advises not to consume this type of food supplements in some people (pregnant and lactating women, people over 70 years old, heavy consumers of grapefruit and patients already taking medication for excess cholesterol).