If you've been watching TV lately you've likely seen an ad for the latest health food on the market - Sultana Bran+ with Cholesterol Lowering Plant Sterols. This new take on an old favourite claims to be a "tasty way to manage your cholesterol". How? Well, according to the manufacturers, it contains "the recommended dose of plant sterols in each serve".
But what actually are plant sterols? Can they really help manage cholesterol? And is this new product worth the extra price tag?
Plant sterols are a group of compounds that occur naturally in a variety of plant foods. They are mainly found in vegetable oils, but are also present in smaller amounts in nuts, legumes and grains.
Plant sterols have a structure similar to that of cholesterol. When they are present in our digestive tract, they compete with cholesterol for absorption. Strong research shows plant sterols to be effective at reducing levels of LDL-cholesterol, known as the "bad" cholesterol, by as much as 10%.
To lower LDL-cholesterol, the Heart Foundation recommends adults consume 2-3g of plant sterols per day. The problem is that the average Australian diet provides only about 0.2-0.4g of plant sterols per day, which is insufficient to have any noticeable effect on our cholesterol levels. In order to reach the target of 2-3g per day, the Heart Foundation recommends supplementing the diet with foods that have been enriched with plant sterols.
Enter Sultana Bran+. This is one of a few products currently on the market that have been enriched with plant sterols. Sultana Bran+ boasts that one bowl (50g, or about 3/4 cup) provides an easy and delicious way to get the recommended daily dose of plant sterols. But do these claims add up?
Here are the nutrition stats taken from the label of Sultana Bran+. We've compared this new product with another plant sterol-enriched cereal on the market - Weet-Bix Cholesterol Lowering.
Contains 2g of plant sterols per serve (100% of the minimum recommended daily intake).
Contains 7g of fibre per serve (~25% of the minimum recommended daily intake).
Lower in sugar than many supermarket cereals, with a large portion of the sugars coming from sultanas.
Same great taste as the original Sultana Bran we know and love.
Higher in calories - costing 188 calories per 2g plant sterol serve (compared to just 127 calories per serve for the Weet-Bix equivalent).
Higher price tag - costing $0.90 per 2g plant sterol serve (compared to just $0.52 for the Weet-Bix equivalent).
Not a suitable option for those avoiding gluten due to Coeliac Disease or oligo-fructans (a FODMAP) due to Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Sultana Bran+ presents a simple and healthy way to consume the recommended 2g daily dose of plant sterols - as does Weet-Bix Cholesterol Lowering. When eaten daily, it will indeed work to block your absorption of cholesterol as well as boost you intake of fibre. However, for those avoiding gluten or FODMAPs, or who just don't enjoy cereal, there are many alternative strategies available to lower cholesterol. Book an appointment with one of our Dietitians to find out more!