Background: Low-fat vegetable foods contain phytosterols, but it is not known whether they are in biologically active forms or whether their concentrations are high enough to reduce cholesterol absorption and favorably affect lipid metabolism. Objective: The objective was to establish whether the selective removal of phytosterols from wheat germ would increase the cholesterol absorption measured from test meals composed of wheat germ muffins. Design: Wheat germ, which has a high content of phytosterols relative to total fat, was chosen as a low-fat test food. Cholesterol absorption was measured 3 times in 10 subjects. Each test meal was a muffin containing 30 mg heptadeuterated cholesterol tracer and, in random order, 80 g original wheat germ containing 328 mg phytosterols, wheat germ from which phytosterols had been selectively extracted, or extracted wheat germ reconstituted with purified phytosterols. Changes in cholesterol absorption were monitored by the measurement of tracer enrichment of plasma cholesterol 4 and 5 d after each meal with the use of negative ion mass spectrometry. Results: Tracer enrichment of plasma cholesterol was 42.8% higher after consumption of phytosterol-free wheat germ than after that of the original wheat germ (0.415 ± 0.035 compared with 0.291 ± 0.024 μmol tracer/mmol cholesterol; P < 0.01). Tracer enrichment of plasma cholesterol was not significantly different between the wheat germ with extracted-and-reconstituted phytosterol (0.305 ± 0.022 μmol tracer/mmol cholesterol) and the original wheat germ. Conclusion: The efficiency of cholesterol absorption from test meals was substantially lower after consumption of original wheat germ than after consumption of phytosterol-free wheat germ, which suggests that endogenous phytosterols in wheat germ and possibly in other low-fat vegetable foods may have important effects on cholesterol absorption and metabolism that are independent of major nutrients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1385-1389
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2003


  • Deuterium
  • Diet
  • Human studies
  • Mass spectrum analysis
  • Phytosterols
  • Sitosterol


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