What are phytosterols?
Phytosterols are compounds that occur in plants and are similar to that of cholesterol found in animals. These compounds entail plant sterols and stanols that are collectively known as phytosteroids. There are no double bonds in the sterol ring structure. Consequently, sterols are saturated compounds. On the other hand, stanols are saturated sterol compounds. Identification of more than 200 sterols and related compounds has been done. Insolubility in water, relative insolubility in oil and solubility in alcohol are some of the solubility characteristics reflecting the properties of phytosterols extracted from oil.
Superiority of phytosterols:
Phytosterols have found significant projection in the food industries as they are rampantly employed as dietary supplements. Although, phytosterols have been preferably used as dietary components, there are no scientific evidences yet to prove the beneficiary quotient of phytosterols in terms of reducing the intensity of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) or the overall mortality quotient. However, they possess the effective capability of reducing LDL cholesterol.
Structural variations and the subsequent compounds formed:
The structure of phytosterols is in a way that it could be modified in various ways to obtain various compounds. The modifications made generally involve the removal of carbon and hydrogen atoms. They are also modified by the hydrogenation of double bonds between carbon atoms and also by the esterification of the hydroxyl groups. The various compounds obtained encompass sterol esters, stigmasterol, campestanol, brassicasterol, ergosterol, lupeol cholesterol, campesterol and β-sitostanol.
Phytosterols as dietary supplements: