British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers

Increased plant sterol and stanol levels in brain of Watanabe rabbits fed rapeseed oil derived plant sterol or stanol esters

Christiane B. Frickea1, Malene Schrødera2, Morten Poulsena2, Klaus von Bergmanna1, Ingmar Westera3, Ib Knudsena2, Alicja Mortensena2 and Dieter Lütjohanna1 c1

a1 Department of Clinical Pharmacology, University of Bonn, Sigmund-Freud-Strasse 25, D-53105 Bonn, Germany

a2 Danish Institute for Food and Veterinary Research, Mørkhøj Bygade 19, DK-2860 Søborg Denmark

a3 Raisio Group, PO Box 101, FI-21201 Raisio, Finland


Foods containing plant sterol or stanol esters can be beneficial in lowering LDL-cholesterol concentration, a major risk factor for CVD. The present study examined whether high dietary intake of rapeseed oil (RSO) derived plant sterol and stanol esters is associated with increased levels of these components in brain tissue of homozygous and heterozygous Watanabe rabbits, an animal model for familial hypercholesterolemia. Homozygous animals received either a standard diet, RSO stanol or RSO sterol ester while heterozygous animals were additionally fed with 2 g cholesterol/kg to the respective diet form for 120 d (n 9 for each group). Concentrations of cholesterol, its precursor lathosterol, plant sterols and stanols in brain and additionally in liver and plasma were determined by highly sensitive GC–MS. High-dose intake of RSO derived plant sterols and stanols resulted in increased levels of these components in plasma and liver. In brain a limited uptake of plant sterols and stanols was proven, indicating that these compounds passed the blood–brain barrier and may be retained in the brain tissue of Watanabe rabbits. Plant stanol ester feeding lowered plant sterol levels in brain, liver, and plasma. Cholesterol synthesis in brain, indicated by lathosterol, a local surrogate cholesterol synthesis marker, does not seem to be affected by plant sterol or stanol ester feeding. We conclude that high dose intake of plant sterol and stanol esters in Watanabe rabbits results in elevated concentrations of these components not only in the periphery but also in the central nervous system.

(Received November 10 2006)

(Revised March 23 2007)

(Accepted April 12 2007)


c1 Corresponding author: Dr Dieter Lütjohann, fax +49 228 287 11836, e-mail


Abbreviations: RSO, Rapeseed oil