Beta-sitosterol is used for heart disease and high cholesterol. It is also used for boosting the immune system and for preventing colon cancer, as well as for gallstones, the common cold and flu (influenza), HIV/AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis, tuberculosis, psoriasis, allergies, cervical cancer, fibromyalgia, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), asthma, hair loss, bronchitis, migraine headache, and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Some men use beta-sitosterol for enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH). Some women use it for symptoms of menopause.
It is also used for enhancing sexual activity.
Marathon runners sometimes use beta-sitosterol to reduce pain and swelling after a run.
Some people apply beta-sitosterol to the skin for treating wounds and burns.
In foods, beta-sitosterol is added to some margarines (Take Control, for example) that are designed for use as part of a cholesterol-lowering diet and for preventing heart disease. The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows manufacturers to claim that foods containing plant sterol esters such as beta-sitosterol are for reducing the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). This rule is based on the FDA's conclusion that plant sterol esters may reduce the risk of CHD by lowering blood cholesterol levels. Although there is plenty of evidence that beta-sitosterol does lower cholesterol levels, there is no proof that long-term use actually lowers the risk of developing CHD.
Don't confuse beta-sitosterol with sitostanol, a similar substance contained in the product called Benecol. Both sitostanol and beta-sitosterol are used for lowering cholesterol levels in people with high cholesterol and appear to be equally effective.
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