“It is our purpose to educate the public accordingly and to ensure that consumers realise this very significant choice that is available to them,” the International Plant Sterols & Stanols Association (IPSSA) said on its website of the abundence of sterol and stanol foods on retail shelves around the world.
Communications manager Konstantinos Maragkakis told us the group sought to emphasise the role sterol and stanol foods can play in reducing heart health problems, and to have its messages heard in ongoing discussions about diet and lifestyle led by institutions like the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Union.
“It is one of our goals to work more in the major regulatory decision-making centres,” he said about the Brussels-based group. “Plant sterols and stanols can significantly reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and we need to ensure that message is heard.”
He said the group, launched Monday, “is not a closed shop” and is open to new members wherever they may be located in the world.
The stanols and sterols landscape
Plant stanols and sterols have regulator-backed, cholesterol-lowering health claims in the European Union, the US and parts of the world including Asia and south America, but the category has stalled in some mature markets as it has struggled to move beyond a core niche of typically older, heart disease-concerned people.
The IPSSA website emphasises the positive impact sterols and stanols can have on health health and on reducing public healthcare costs that are spiralling out of control as the incidence of obesity and diabetes and other chronic diseases rises in developed and developing countries due to shifting dietary habits and sedentary lifestyles.
"Including functional foods with added plant sterols or stanols to a daily diet is easy and we believe that it can even encourage other gradual healthy lifestyle changes," it says. "However, public awareness of the role of plant sterols and plant stanols and their contribution to healthy living is still limited."
In the EU products must deliver 1.5-2.4 g equivalents of plant sterols and/or plant stanols per day to bear coronary heart disease risk reduction health claims via cholesterol reduction.
In the US products must deliver at least 0.5 g per Reference Amount Customarily Consumed (RACC) for a total daily intake of 2 g plant sterols and/or plant stanols to bear the disease risk reduction health claim.
The daily needed 2 g of plant sterols and/or plant stanols can be delivered in 1-4 servings of the food or the food supplement.
“In IPSSA, the leading international companies are working together to educate the public about the benefits of integrating plant sterols / plant stanols in the daily diet and to foster the implementation of healthy diet and lifestyle choices to reduce blood LDL-cholesterol. We are thus convinced that we can actively contribute to lowering the risk of coronary heart disease and to healthy living for all.”
The WHO estimates 30% or more of many populations have raised cholesterol levels.
Euromonitor International put the global market for plant stanol and sterol based, cholesterol-lowering products at about €2.45bn in 2013 with Unilever’s pro.activ brand and Raisio’s Benecol the runaway leaders. Other major brands include Danone’s Danacol yoghurt drink.
Spreads are the dominant format although other applications include milks, crackers, breads and youghurts.