Phytosterols, long known for their cholesterol-lowering action, are emerging as cancer-fighting powerhouses. Phytosterols, the structural components in the cell membranes of plants, have long been known to reduce serum total and LDL cholesterol levels. Now, new research indicates that they may help to prevent cancer as well.
A study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition last month found that phytosterols, also known as plant sterols, inhibit cancers of the stomach, lung, ovaries and breasts. Phytosterols are plant-derived compounds similar in structure and function to cholesterol. They are found in most plant foods in low concentrations. The foods with higher concentrations include nuts, legumes, oranges, bananas, beetroot and Brussels sprouts. The highest concentrations are found in unrefined plant oils including vegetable, nut and olive oils. Whole grains, wheat germ and flax seeds are also good dietary sources of plant sterols.
According to this latest research, not only do phytosterols prevent the production of carcinogens, promote the death of cancer cells, and help prevent metastasis, but they also seem to increase the activity of antioxidant enzymes which help to reduce oxidative stress on the cells.
The researchers in the study wrote that "mounting evidence supports a role for phytosterols in protecting against cancer development. Hence, phytosterols could be incorporated in the diet not only to lower the cardiovascular disease risk, but also to potentially prevent cancer development." Including phytosterols in your diet appears to be an important strategy in protecting against cancer development.
Phytosterols are also critical to eye health, forming the oily outer layer of the natural tear film which then acts as a "vapor barrier" against the evaporation of tears. That's why they are included in VisiVite's Dry Eye Relief TG-1000 Formula.
Nancy Hirsch, Certified Nutritionist