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Beta-Sitosterol Plant Extract

Treatment Overview

Beta-sitosterol is one of many sterols that come from plants (phytosterols) and have a structure like the cholesterol produced in the body. You can find phytosterols in many plants and thus in foods such as rice bran, wheat germ, corn oils, soybeans, and peanuts. Beta-sitosterol is also available as a natural health product.

Why It Is Used

Beta-sitosterol is said to lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of some cancers. It also is said to relieve symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).

Risks

Few problems have been reported among men taking beta-sitosterol for BPH. Some men may have problems with their stomach and digestion. Beta-sitosterol's ability to prevent complications of BPH is not known.

Men who have problems urinating should see a doctor to rule out prostate cancer or other diseases. Prostate cancer is treatable, but treatment may be more successful when you find and treat the cancer as early as possible.

Some studies have shown that phytosterols can help lower cholesterol. But the long-term effects of eating foods that have phytosterols added to them (for example, some margarines) or taking phytosterols as a natural health product are not yet known.

The Natural and Non-Prescription Health Products Directorate (NNHPD), within the Health Products and Food Branch of Health Canada, regulates natural health products in Canada. Natural health products, including beta-sitosterol, must be reviewed and approved by the NNHPD before they can be sold in Canada.

Always tell your doctor if you are using a natural health product or if you are thinking about combining a natural health product with your conventional medical treatment. It may not be safe to forgo your conventional medical treatment and rely only on a natural health product. This is especially important for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

When using natural health products, keep in mind the following:

  • Like conventional medicines, natural health products may cause side effects, trigger allergic reactions, or interact with prescription and non-prescription medicines or other natural health products you might be taking. A side effect or interaction with another medicine or natural health product may make other health conditions worse.
  • Natural health products may not be standardized in their manufacturing. This means that how well they work or any side effects they cause may differ among brands or even within different lots of the same brand. The form you buy in health food or grocery stores may not be the same as the form used in research.
  • Other than for vitamins and minerals, the long-term effects of most natural health products are not known.

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