- Researchers have found that consuming two glasses per day of orange juice fortified with plant sterols can reduce harmful LDL cholesterol by an average of 12 percent within 10 weeks.
- Plant sterols, found naturally in many fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, and legumes, have long been recognized for their potential to lower cholesterol.
- An upcoming study suggests that fortified orange juice could be an effective way to administer daily doses of plant sterols, without the need for dietary changes.
- Orange juice fortified with sterols seemed to have negligible impact on HDL (beneficial cholesterol) and unhealthy blood fats, but may assist in lowering slightly increased cholesterol, potentially even avoiding the need for medication.
- However, overconsumption of such juice, due to its high sugar and carbohydrate content, could lead to weight gain, and should only be included as part of a balanced and heart-healthy diet.
Presenting a new addition to your grocery cart in the juice aisle, potentially leading towards lower cholesterol levels.
Researchers have found that two glasses per day of orange juice fortified with nature’s own plant sterols can noticeably diminish the LDL, or the harmful cholesterol, by a mean of 12 percent in a time frame of 10 weeks.
The Power of Plant Sterols
About this fortified juice becoming popular across the United States since last autumn, a prominent figure in the domain of nutrition and metabolism, Dr. Robert H. Eckel remarks that this, “could be a significant factor to consider for patients who either have mild cholesterol elevations and who don’t want to be on medications permanently. Or, alternatively, [it can be used] in addition to medicines that have reached their maximal efficiency.”
Long ago, researchers understood the cholesterol-reducing potential of plant sterols. They are found naturally in a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, and legumes. For many years now, health-conscious U.S. consumers have had access to margarine spreads augmented with plant sterols.
Research Findings: The Role of Orange Juice
In an upcoming study to be featured in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, a team at the University of California, Davis Medical Center, investigated if orange juice could be similarly effective in administering everyday doses of plant sterols. The research received private funding, as well as public funding from the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
During the project lasting10 weeks, 72 individuals having marginally increased levels of blood cholesterol were chosen to drink two 8-ounce glasses of orange juice each day, one glass at breakfast and the other with dinner. Half of them drank the juice fortified with sterols, while the others had juice without any additional fortification.
The Impact on Cholesterol Levels
After checking these individuals’ blood cholesterol levels periodically through the span of the study, lead researcher and pathologist Sridevi Devaraj states, “we measured roughly an average 12 percent decrease in LDL.” Her belief is that, “this is the very first study demonstrating that an orange juice without fats, if supplemented with plant sterols and consumed regularly with your meals, can lower your LDL cholesterol without requiring a diet change.”
The juice with added sterols seemingly had negligible impact on either HDL (beneficial) cholesterol or the unhealthy blood fats known as triglycerides.
Taking sterols through fortified food items appears practical, Devaraj says, considering these compounds are present in minuscule quantities in natural foods. “Even for someone following a vegetarian diet, they can only get up to about 300 milligrams [of sterols] per meal,” she adds. Contrarily, a single 8-ounce glass of fortified orange juice provides a full gram’s worth of sterols.
Reviewing the study, Eckel underlines that the impact of the juice remains modest and should not be viewed as a substitute for standard cholesterol-lowering medications among individuals with high cholesterol levels.
The Potential of Sterol-Fortified Juice
However, Dr. Eckel suggests that having a couple of glasses a day of such fortified juice might assist people with slightly increased cholesterol in avoiding the need for medicine. “If your LDL goal is 130, you’re a middle-aged individual with hypertension but no heart disease, and your LDL cholesterol is at 140, maybe a sterol-loaded orange juice might be all you need,” Eckel states.
Orange juice also carries other health-expanding nutrients such as vitamin C, folate, and potassium. Devaraj feels that the new juice will likely appeal to cholesterol-aware customers put off by the fat content in sterol-fortified margarine spreads.
However, Eckel also warns that consuming excessive quantities of sugar- and carbohydrate-rich orange juice can also cause weight gain. Juices such as this fortified version “should [only] be included as part of an overall heart-healthy diet. This is not a product we’re going to use in large volumes, encouraging extra calories,” he adds.
As per the American Heart Association, it reports that 105 million Americans have total cholesterol levels of 200 mg/dL or above, escalating their risk for cardiovascular disease. Experts advise a combination of a healthy diet, exercise and, if necessary, drug therapy, to keep cholesterol levels within healthy bounds.