British Journal of Nutrition

Research Article

Consumption of tall oil-derived phytosterols in a chocolate matrix significantly decreases plasma total and low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol levels

Jacqueline de Graafa1 c1, Pernette R. W. de Sauvage Noltinga2, Marjel van Dama2, Elizabeth M. Belseya3, John J. P. Kasteleina2, P. Haydn Pritcharda4 and Anton F. H. Stalenhoefa1

a1 Department of General Internal Medicine, University Medical Centre Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

a2 Department of Vascular Medicine, Academic Medical Centre, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

a3 Department of Statistics, Division of Infectious Diseases, Northwestern University, Chicago IL, USA

a4 Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada


In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial we evaluated the effect of dietary chocolates enriched with a wood-based phytosterol–phytostanol mixture, containing 18% (w/w) sitostanol, compared with placebo dietary chocolates in seventy subjects with primary hypercholesterolaemia (total cholesterol levels below 8 mmol/l). For 4 weeks, participants consumed three servings of the phytosterol-enriched chocolate/d that provided 1·8 g unesterified phytosterols/d or a placebo chocolate in conjunction with a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet. Plasma total and LDL-cholesterol levels were statistically significantly reduced by 6·4% (−0·44 mmol/l) and 10·3% (−0·49 mmol/l), respectively, after 4 weeks of phytosterol-enriched-chocolate treatment. Plasma HDL-cholesterol and triacylglycerol levels were not affected. Consumption of phytosterol-enriched chocolates significantly increased plasma lathosterol concentration (+20·7%), reflecting an increased endogenous cholesterol synthesis in response to phytosterol-induced decreased intestinal cholesterol absorption. Furthermore, the chocolates enriched with phytosterols significantly increased both plasma sitosterol (+95·8%) and campesterol (+64·1%) levels, compared with the placebo chocolate group. However, the absolute values of plasma sitosterol and campesterol remained within the normal range, that is, below 10 mg/l. The chocolates with phytosterols were palatable and induced no clinical or biochemical side effects. These findings indicate that dietary chocolate enriched with tall oil-derived phytosterols (1·8 g/d) is effective in lowering blood total and LDL-cholesterol levels in subjects with mild hypercholesterolaemia and thus may be helpful in reducing the risk of CHD in these individuals.

(Received October 01 2001)

(Revised May 29 2002)

(Accepted June 18 2002)


c1 *Corresponding author: Dr J. de Graaf, fax +31 24 35 417 34, email