Finnish researchers whipped up a batch of margarine that lowers cholesterol levels and even tastes good.
The new scientific spread, developed by a team from the University of Helsinki in Finland, slows the body’s tendency to absorb cholesterol from food.
Finding ways to prevent heart disease by lowering cholesterol has been a hot topic at this year’s scientific meeting of the American Heart Association. On Wednesday, Scottish doctors described the impressive power of the so-called statin drugs to ward off heart-related deaths in people with no outward signs of heart disease.
Some experts say cholesterol-lowering foods may eventually offer a cheaper first step than drugs for those who need to watch cholesterol.
Dr. Tatu A. Miettinen and colleagues described their margarine in a report in today’s issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
They developed a form of a natural plant alcohol called sitostanol and added it to ordinary margarine. Sitostanol is not absorbed itself, but it interferes with cholesterol absorption by the intestines.
They tested it for a year on 153 volunteers whose cholesterol averaged a mildly elevated 235. Cholesterol levels were virtually unchanged in those who ate ordinary margarine. But among the people who ate margarine with sitostanol, cholesterol fell to an average of 210.
The researchers said the volunteers could tell the new margarine from the ordinary kind, but they “could not decide which of the two tasted better.”