Beta-Sitosterol

What Is It?

As one of several phytosterols (plant compounds with chemical structures similar to that of cholesterol), beta-sitosterol is commonly found in foods such as wheat germ, soybeans, and corn oil. Over the past few years, concentrated extracts of this particular phytosterol have been tested for lowering cholesterol and lessening such discomforts of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) as frequent and painful urination.

In fact, Europeans have long taken beta-sitosterol and other plant remedies for prostate problems and growing numbers of American men are following suit. Beta-sitosterol products are now widely available in health-food outlets, and promising research results on beta-sitosterol for BPH are being published.

A Lancet study, for instance, found that among 200 men with BPH those given beta-sitosterol (20 mg three times a day for six months), showed significant improvements in urinary difficulties. In contrast, those men given a placebo reported no relief at all.

And in a key 1999 review of four well-designed clinical trials involving 519 men with mild to moderate (symptomatic) BPH, analysts reported that beta-sitosterol provided notable relief from urinary problems. It also increased urine flow and caused few side effects. Interestingly, benefits matched those commonly seen with prescription BPH drugs. Beta-sitosterol even holds promise for lowering a man’s cholesterol levels at the same time that it controls BPH symptoms.

It’s still not clear exactly how beta-sitosterol benefits the prostate; research indicates that it may lessen inflammation and block the accumulation of cholesterol in the prostate gland itself. It does not appear to alter the size of the prostate, however.

Beta-sitosterol may also lower elevated cholesterol in some cases, a function of its apparent ability to block the absorption of cholesterol throughout the body. However, relatively high daily doses are typically needed for this effect (500 mg up to 10 grams daily), so if you’re taking the lower, standard daily amount of beta-sitosterol for BPH (60 to 130 mg daily), don’t expect results for your cholesterol too. Consult your doctor for guidance about taking beta-sitosterol for high cholesterol.

Forms

tablet
softgel
capsule

General Interaction

There are no known drug or nutrient interactions associated with beta-sitosterol.

Cautions

While each new study on beta-sitosterol for BPH provides important insights, much remains to be learned about how safe and effective beta-sitosterol is over the long-term. It’s also unclear whether this plant substance can actually prevent complications of BPH, such as sudden and severe urine retention and the need for surgery.

Don’t try to self-diagnose BPH. Although often benign, prostate problems should always be examined by a doctor to rule out other, more serious conditions, including prostate cancer. Also keep in mind that beta-sitosterol has not been investigated for men with particularly large prostates or severe BPH symptoms.

Don’t stop taking a prescription medication and start taking beta-sitosterol for prostate problems without discussing the change with your doctor.

A very small number of men develop gastrointestinal upset and impotence when taking beta-sitosterol. Consult your doctor if you have any concerns. Ailments Dosage Prostate Problems 60-100 mg per day, singly or in divided doses

Doctor Recommendations

Phytosterols are a group of compounds that are best imagined as the cholesterol component of a plant. Soybeans have an especially hefty component of a specific phytosterol called beta-sitosterol. Some time ago, it was discovered that beta-sitosterol could lower blood cholesterol by preventing it from being absorbed. In fact, if you use one of the new cholesterol-lowering margarines, you could well be experiencing the beta-sitosterol effect in action.

HOW IT HELPS PROSTATE PROBLEMS

Although it’s now entirely clear how it works, beta-sitosterol seems to help relieve the symptoms of prostate enlargement. Research indicates it may lessen inflammation and block the accumulation of cholesterol in the prostate gland itself. The size of the actual prostate does not change, however. Several clinical studies have confirmed that beta-sitosterol helps ease BPH. In a 1997 German study, beta-sitosterol, administered at 130 mg a day to 177 men with BPH, was clearly superior to a placebo when it came to relieving symptoms. A smaller study in the United States published this past year reconfirmed these findings.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Beta-sitosterol is available in capsules, tablets, and softgels. You’ll need 60 to 130 mg a day to relieve prostate symptoms. Be sure to take into account the amount of beta-sitosterol contained in any food substitute products you may be using.

Combination Products

Beta-sitosterol is available in capsules, tablets, and softgels. You’ll need 60 to 130 mg a day to relieve prostate symptoms. Be sure to take into account the amount of beta-sitosterol contained in any food substitute products you may be using.

OTHER SUGGESTIONS

If you’ve got high cholesterol in addition to prostate problems, you might look for a beta-sitosterol product that will give you a larger dose of 4 to 6 grams per day. Obviously, this is far more than you need for your enlarged prostate, but beta-sitosterol, even at this dose, is virtually free of side effects. Food tip: Soy spreads are also a source of beta-sitosterol. I am unaware of any studies using this food product for BPH, but it certainly seems a reasonable choice of spreads if you have either prostate symptoms or high cholesterol.

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