Plant sterols, also known as phytosterols, have structures similar to those of cholesterol, which is an animal sterol. Plant sterols are found at high levels in plant seeds, and exist in free form, fatty acid ester form, or glycoside form. While animals almost always have only cholesterol, a variety of plant sterols are present in plants. Some are also characteristically found in certain plants or fungi, such as ergosterol in mushrooms.
It is known that plant sterols inhibit the absorption of cholesterol in the small intestinal lumen, and that they decrease blood cholesterol concentrations. This is because the plant sterols competitively inhibit micelle formation by cholesterol, as there is a limit to the dissolution of sterols in micelle if plant sterols are also present when cholesterol forms bile acid micelle*1. In addition, since plant sterols are very hard to absorb into the small intestine even though they dissolve in bile acid micelles, most of them are excreted without being taken in. FUJIFILM Wako has a lineup of reagents for plant sterol research and analysis.
*1: Fine particles become more soluble in water as the parts of the molecule that do not easily dissolve in water become encapsulated by the parts that easily dissolve in water.
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