British Journal of Nutrition

Research Article

Estimation of plant sterol and cholesterol intake in Finland: quality of new values and their effect on intake

L. M. Valstaa1 c1, A. Lemströma2 p1, M.-L. Ovaskainena1, A.-M. Lampia2, J. Toivoa2 p2, T. Korhonena1a2 and V. Piironena2

a1 Department of Epidemiology and Health Promotion, Nutrition Unit, The National Public Health Institute, Mannerheimintie 166, FIN-00300 Helsinki, Finland

a2 The Department of Applied Chemistry and Microbiology at the University of Helsinki, P. O. B. 27, FIN-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland


The Finnish national food composition database Fineli® was updated with recent analytical values for plant sterols (PS) (sitosterol, campesterol, stigmasterol, avenasterol, brassicasterols and stanols) and cholesterol. The quality of the new analytical data was assessed. The aims of the present study were: (1) to compare the effect of old and new database values on PS and cholesterol intakes based on average per capita food consumption data; (2) to estimate the current intake and major sources of these compounds in various population groups according to the national FINDIET 1997 survey data. The intake of total PS was 305 mg/d for men and 237 mg/d for women. The respective intakes for cholesterol were 284 mg/d and 201 mg/d. Women had a higher density of PS in their diets than men, whereas the cholesterol density in the diets did not differ between genders. Cereals, margarine, vegetables and vegetable oils were the main food sources of PS. Meat, meat products and eggs were the main sources of cholesterol. A 9 % greater PS intake estimate was obtained with the new PS database compared with the old PS database, probably due to minor methodological differences between the new and old analyses. Notable changes in analytical methods suggest a lower value (−19 %) for cholesterol intake calculated from the new database compared with the old one. We conclude that researchers can have confidence in the new values for PS and cholesterol, because systematic evaluation of the new analytical values showed them to be of high quality.

(Received August 28 2003)

(Revised May 19 2004)

(Accepted June 14 2004)


c1 *Corresponding author: Dr Liisa Valsta, fax +358 9 47 44 85 91, email

p1 Ministry of Trade and Industry, P. O. B. 32, FIN-00023 Valtioneuvosto, Finland.

p2 National Technology Agency of Finland, TEKES, P. O. B. 69, FIN-00101 Helsinki, Finland.