PloS one

Plasma biomarker of dietary phytosterol intake.

PMID 25668184


Dietary phytosterols, plant sterols structurally similar to cholesterol, reduce intestinal cholesterol absorption and have many other potentially beneficial biological effects in humans. Due to limited information on phytosterol levels in foods, however, it is difficult to quantify habitual dietary phytosterol intake (DPI). Therefore, we sought to identify a plasma biomarker of DPI. Data were analyzed from two feeding studies with a total of 38 subjects during 94 dietary periods. DPI was carefully controlled at low, intermediate, and high levels. Plasma levels of phytosterols and cholesterol metabolites were assessed at the end of each diet period. Based on simple ordinary least squares regression analysis, the best biomarker for DPI was the ratio of plasma campesterol to the endogenous cholesterol metabolite 5-α-cholestanol (R2 = 0.785, P < 0.0001). Plasma campesterol and 5-α-cholestanol levels varied greatly among subjects at the same DPI level, but were positively correlated at each DPI level in both studies (r > 0.600; P < 0.01). The ratio of plasma campesterol to the coordinately regulated endogenous cholesterol metabolite 5-α-cholestanol is a biomarker of dietary phytosterol intake. Conversely, plasma phytosterol levels alone are not ideal biomarkers of DPI because they are confounded by large inter-individual variation in absorption and turnover of non-cholesterol sterols. Further work is needed to assess the relation between non-cholesterol sterol metabolism and associated cholesterol transport in the genesis of coronary heart disease.