Beta-sitosterol is probably the most important, active ingredient in phytosterols, which are found in plants and are thought to be useful in treating urinary problems related to benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Evidence that phytosterols inhibit enzymes, hormones, and growth factors, and produce inflammatory effects has been found, but the precise mechanisms by which phytosterols improve urinary symptoms are not known.
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Beta-sitosterol is one of the most common dietary phytosterols (plant sterols) found in and made exclusively by plants. Beta-sitosterol glucoside is a glucoside attached to beta-sitosterol. Other phytosterols include campesterol and stigmasterol. Stanols are saturated derivatives of sterols.
Beta-sitosterol is classified as a noncholesterol sterol, or neutral sterol. However, it is structurally similar to cholesterol, and it is the main sterol in the Western diet. Some evidence suggests that Americans consume about 165 milligrams of beta-sitosterol daily. Beta-sitosterol and beta-sitosterol glucoside are found in the tissue, plasma, and feces of healthy individuals. The average content of plant sterols found in the plasma of healthy Western individuals is one milligram per deciliter.
Beta-sitosterol is found in plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, soybeans, breads, peanuts, and peanut products. Beta-sitosterol is also present in bourbon and oils, such as olive, flaxseed, and tuna. Plant oils contain the highest concentration of phytosterols. Nuts and seeds contain moderate amounts of phytosterols, while fruits and vegetables generally contain the lowest phytosterol concentrations. For example, roasted peanuts contain 61-114 milligrams per 100 grams, 78-83% of which is in the form of beta-sitosterol. Peanut butter contains 144-157 milligrams per 100 grams. These values indicate that peanut products are a good source of phytosterols, specifically, beta-sitosterol. Avocados have also been identified as a good source of beta-sitosterol. Beta-sitosterol can also be derived from pulp and paper mill effluents.
Margarines enriched with phytosterol esters, including beta-sitosterol, have been marketed for their cholesterol-lowering effects. Sitosterols are also used in products for the treatment of other medical conditions, including, but not limited to, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and immune stimulation.
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