(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- Plant cholesterols known as sterols -- recognized for their cholesterol-lowering power when added to margarines, salad dressings and other fats -- also have been found to be effective in reducing low-density lipoprotein, or "bad" cholesterol" levels, when added to orange juice. Now, UC Davis researchers have found that twice-daily servings of a reduced-calorie orange juice beverage fortified with plant sterols also reduces levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation and an accepted risk marker for heart disease.
"This is the first study to show that healthy people who drink a plant sterol-fortified orange juice beverage can reduce C-reactive protein levels," said Sridevi Devaraj, lead author of the study. Devaraj is an associate professor of pathology and an investigator in the UC Davis Laboratory for Atherosclerosis and Metabolic Research. "We already knew that adding plant sterols to a juice could lower 'bad' cholesterol levels. Now we see an added benefit of reducing inflammation, a process we know plays an important role in the development of heart disease," Devaraj said.
The current results, based on an eight-week study of 72 healthy volunteers, appear in the October issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Devaraj and Ishwarlal Jialal, UC Davis professor of medicine and pathology, first showed the cholesterol-reducing effects of adding plant sterols to a nonfat beverage in 2004. The current findings further support the idea of using plant sterols to improve health.
"The best way to fight heart disease is through changes in diet and exercise. But, the reality is that people have trouble making those changes," explained Jialal, who is co-author on the current study. "Drinking a plant sterol-fortified orange juice beverage is a relatively simple thing to do and it may have important preventative effects."