- What is Benecol®?
- What is cholesterol?
- From where does cholesterol originate?
- From where does cholesterol come into the
- How does Plant stanol ester work?
- Why is elevated LDL cholesterol
- Why is Plant stanol ester added to food
- Where does the Plant stanol ester come
- How much does Plant stanol ester reduce blood
LDL cholesterol levels?
- How can I know if my cholesterol level is too
- What are the recommended levels for LDL, HDL
and total cholesterol?
- Is my blood cholesterol level
- Are Benecol® products suitable for
- How will I know that Plant stanol ester is
- When and how should I use Benecol®
- Can I use Benecol® products at my own
- Is there any long-term safety and efficacy
data available for Benecol® products?
- Can I take Benecol® products with
- What happens if I eat less than the
recommended daily intake of Benecol® products?
- What if I don't use Benecol® products every
- How can I achieve a sufficient daily intake of
- What happens if I eat more than the
recommended daily intake of Benecol® products?
- Is the cholesterol lowering effect of Benecol®
products sustained over long periods of time?
- What happens if I stop eating Benecol®
- Does Plant stanol ester get absorbed from the
- Does Plant stanol ester have any
- Why does the product package say that: "Eat no
more than 3 grams of plant stanols per day"?
- Why do Benecol® products need to be consumed
as part of healthy diet?
- Can my cholesterol drop too much by eating
- Does Plant stanol ester affect blood vitamin
- Can I use Benecol® products as a dietary tool
to maintain my blood cholesterol at healthy levels?
- Where can I get information about the Benecol®
products available in my country?
- How can I be sure that Benecol® products work
the same way in every country?
- What does the new nutrition and health claim
legislation in European Union mean for the consumer?
- Why health claim approvals are needed by the
- Are there different types of health
- What is the difference between a nutrition
claim and a health claim?
- What is a disease risk reduction claim for
- What does the disease risk reduction claim for
the cholesterol lowering ingredient in Benecol® products
- It is written in the packaging: "Coronary
heart disease has multiple risk factors and altering one of these
may or may not lower the risk". What does this mean?
- What is coronary heart disease?
- Why is reducing cholesterol and thus the risk
of CHD so important?
1. What is
Benecol® is the global brand name for food products with added
Plant stanol ester, the patented cholesterol-lowering ingredient.
Plant stanol ester effectively reduces total and LDL cholesterol
levels in blood. The efficacy and safety of the ingredient in
Benecol products has been verified in over 60 published clinical
studies. Raisio, a Finnish company, is the owner of both the
Benecol brand and the unique patented Plant stanol ester
2. What is
Cholesterol is a fat-like compound that is essential for all
cells in our body. It also serves as a starting material for bile
acids, certain hormones and vitamin D. Because cholesterol is such
a vital molecule for the normal functioning of the body, it is
synthesized in sufficient quantities by the liver thus, there is no
dietary need for cholesterol.
3. From where does
The cholesterol circulating in our bloodstream originates from
two sources; 1) from the diet that we eat and 2) from the synthesis
in our own body, mainly in the liver, and excreted via the bile
into the digestive tract. In the blood, cholesterol is carried in
lipoprotein particles, mainly in LDL and HDL liporptein
4. From where does
cholesterol come into the digestive tract?
The main sources are dietary and biliary cholesterol
(Cholesterol comes to the dietary tract as dietary cholesterol and
as biliary cholesterol). Dietary cholesterol originates from the
foods we eat (e.g. egg yolks, meat, cream, butter); only foods from
animal sources contain cholesterol. Biliary cholesterol enters the
digestive tract with the bile solution. Bile solution comes from
the liver and is needed for fat digestion. Normally about 50% of
the dietary and biliary cholesterol is absorbed from the digestive
tract into the bloodstream but Plant stanol ester is able to
effectively reduce this absorption. Reduced cholesterol absorption
results in reduced blood total and LDL cholesterol levels.
5. How does Plant
stanol ester work?
Plant stanol ester works by safely inhibiting the absorption of
cholesterol from the digestive tract into the blood. Plant stanol
ester partly blocks the absorption of dietary and biliary
cholesterol. A measurable reduction in blood cholesterol levels can
be seen already after two to three week's daily consumption.
6. Why is elevated
LDL cholesterol undesirable?
When blood LDL cholesterol level exceeds the level needed for
normal functioning, cholesterol starts to build up in blood vessel
walls causing atherosclerosis. Elevated blood cholesterol is a risk
factor for coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral vascular
7. Why is Plant
stanol ester added to food products?
Plant stanol ester reduces cholesterol absorption from the
digestive tract and thereby the level of "bad" LDL-cholesterol in
the blood. Products including Plant stanol ester are a dietary
means to effectively reduce cholesterol.
8. Where does the
Plant stanol ester come from?
Plant stanols are a group of compounds found naturally in plant
cells. Small amounts occur in corn, wheat, rye, and other plants.
Combining plant stanols with vegetable oil extracts creates Plant
stanol ester, which is an ideal ingredient in a wide variety of
food products. Plant stanol ester is produced at facilities in
Raisio in Finland and Charleston in South Carolina in the US.
9. How much does
Plant stanol ester reduce blood LDL cholesterol
To date, more than 60 clinical studies have been published to in
scientific journals, such as the New England Journal of Medicine
and Circulation, documenting the excellent effectiveness and safety
profile of the plant stanol ester. These studies confirm that an
intake of 1.5 to 2.4g plant stanol reduces cholesterol levels by an
average of 7-10% within two to three weeks .
10. How can I know if my cholesterol level
is too high?
High cholesterol is not visible or something you could feel. The
best and most accurate way to check your cholesterol level is to
visit your doctor for a blood cholesterol test.
11. What are the recommended levels for LDL,
HDL and total cholesterol?
Cholesterol reference values given for healthy individuals in
recent international medical guidelines are:
- Total cholesterol less than 5 mmol/l (<190 mg/dl)
- LDL cholesterol less than 3 mmol/l (<115mg/dl)
- HDL cholesterol at least 1 mmol/l (≥40mg/dl) for men and at
least 1.2 mmol/l (≥45 mg/dl) for women
12. Is my blood cholesterol level constant?
Blood levels of cholesterol typically fluctuates by ±10%. It is
therefore prudent to establish your cholesterol level by multiple
13. Are Benecol® products suitable for
Benecol® products are recommended for everyone who want to lower
their cholesterol. However, pregnant or lactating women and
children under 5 have special dietary needs and and should consult
their doctor before using any products designed to help manage
14. How will I know that Plant stanol ester
Your cholesterol levels drop within 2-3 weeks after starting the
daily intake of 1.5 to 2.4g of plant stanols. The daily dose plant
stanol that you get from Benecol products is 2g. Regular
cholesterol tests will show that Plant stanol ester is working.
15. When and how should I use Benecol®
For best results, Benecol® products should be consumed daily
with meals. Benecol products are recommended as part of a healthy
diet including fruits and vegetables and a healthy lifestyle.
16. Can I use Benecol® products at my own
Yes, you can freely use Benecol® products as a dietary tool for
lowering your cholesterol level. It is up to your own discretion if
you want to consult your doctor. However, if you use
cholesterol-lowering medication, it is recommended that you consult
your doctor about using food products with added Plant stanol
17. Is there any long-term safety and
efficacy data available for Benecol® products?
Yes, Benecol® products have a 16 year history of safe use in
man. Furthermore, the effect of Plant stanol ester has been shown
in clinical studies with the duration of 12 and 18 months. Specific
safety studies with Plant stanol ester confirm the safety of this
18. Can I take Benecol® products with
Clinical studies show that people on cholesterol medication
benefit from using Benecol® products. In other words, Plant stanol
ester has been shown to further reduce blood cholesterol levels in
people on statin or other cholesterol lowering medication. However,
people on cholesterol lowering medication should discuss their
individual needs with their doctor to find the optimum
19. What happens if I eat less than the
recommended daily intake of Benecol® products?
Your blood cholesterol level will probably still be reduced,
depending on the daily intake, but not as effectively.
20. What if I don't use Benecol® products
The cholesterol-lowering effect of Plant stanol ester is based
on the reduction in the absorption of cholesterol from the
digestive tract. This "cholesterol blocking" effect requires plant
stanols to be present in the gut and therefore Benecol® products
should be consumed daily for best cholesterol-lowering effects.
However, missing one or two days will most likely not have any
significant effect on your blood cholesterol.
21. How can I achieve a sufficient daily
intake of plant stanols?
Plant stanol ester should be used as part of a healthy diet and
lifestyle. You can easily reach the recommended daily intake of 2g
of plant stanols by consuming commercially available Benecol®
22. What happens if I eat more than the
recommended daily intake of Benecol® products?
Clinical studies show that a daily intake of up to 9g of plant
stanols per day is as safe as consuming the currently recommended
amount (2g plant stanols per day).
23. Is the cholesterol lowering effect of
Benecol® products sustained over long periods of time?
The long-term cholesterol lowering effect of the Plant stanol
ester has been verified in well controlled clinical trials, the
longest ones being 12 and 18 months long. Furthermore, Benecol®
products have been on the market for more than 16 years and
follow-up of individuals who have been using Benecol products
clearly shows the long term cholesterol-lowering effect.
24. What happens if I stop eating Benecol®
Your cholesterol will return to the levels where they were
before you started the use of Benecol® products.
25. Does Plant stanol ester get absorbed
from the digestive tract?
Plant stanol ester is made from vegetable oil extracts and
plant stanols. The plant stanols themselves are virtually
unabsorbable, but the vegetasble oil extracts of Plant stanol ester
are absorbed like any other vegetable oil extracts.
26. Does Plant stanol ester have any
No. No side-effects have been reported in the numerous clinical
studies that have been carried out. Furthermore, specific safety
studies with Plant stanol ester confirm the safety of this
ingredient. Plant stanols are virtually not absorbed into the body
but are excreted rapidly the natural way, which is why they do not
have any other effects in the body than the cholesterol
27. Why does the product package say that:
"Eat no more than 3 grams of plant stanols per day"?
This is a current regulatory restriction in EU member states and
in some other countries. Previously it was thought that the
cholesterol lowering effect of Plant stanol ester levels off at
intake over 3g of plant stanols per day. Recent clinical studies
however show that further LDL cholesterol reduction can be
anticipated with safe higher daily intakes.
28. Why do Benecol® products need to be
consumed as part of healthy diet?
Plant stanol ester lowers cholesterol as part of any diet.
However, a healthy diet has its own beneficial effect on
cholesterol, which is why best results are obtained by combining
Benecol® products with other recommendable food choices.
Furthermore, a healthy diet is always recommended because it has
many positive health effects.
29. Can my cholesterol drop too much by
eating Benecol® products?
No. Plant stanol ester will not reduce your cholesterol too
much, because your body will produce enough cholesterol for its
30. Does Plant stanol ester affect blood
Benecol® products do not have any effect on blood vitamin
levels. Small reductions have been seen for carotenoids, but the
carotenoid levels still remain within reference values.
Furthermore, an adequate consumption of fruit and vegetables,
together with plant stanol-enriched products, is sufficient to
maintain your original carotenoid levels.
31. Can I use Benecol® products as a dietary
tool to maintain my blood cholesterol at healthy
Dietary changes are the first-line approach for lowering
elevated cholesterol or maintaining blood cholesterol at healthy
levels (see question 11). Benecol® products are a dietary tool for
lowering blood cholesterol levels and the cholesterol lowering
effect of Benecol products is additive to that of recommended,
cholesterol lowering diet.
32. Where can I get information about the
Benecol® products available in my country?
See www.benecol.com where
you will find your local Benecol® product manufacturer.
33. How can I be sure that Benecol® products work the
same way in every country?
All Benecol® products contain the same cholesterol-lowering
ingredient, Plant stanol ester, which is supplied by Raisio
Nutrition. The amount of the ingredient in a portion of Benecol
products may vary, so please check the labeling for ensuring the
recommended daily intake.
34. What does the
new nutrition and health claim legislation in European Union mean
for the consumer?
The new nutrition and health claim legislation was prepared to
protect the consumers from misleading claims and to help the
consumer to make informed decisions. All health claims must be
evaluated by the European Food Safety Authority and approved by the
European Commission before use, thus enabling the consumer to trust
the solid scientific evidence behind health claims.
35. Why health claim
approvals are needed by the European Commission?
Previously there were differences in national provisions between
EU member states. When the implementation stage of the new
legislation is over only approved health claims will exist and the
use of all those health claims, which have been rejected because of
insufficient scientific evidence, will end. EU level approvals will
ensure that health claims within all EU member states will be
comparable to each other.
36. Are there
different types of health claims?
There are three types of health claims:
a. General health claims -> health claims that refer to the
normal function of the body (e.g. calcium is good for your
b. Disease risk reduction health claims and children's health
claims -> health claims that relate to a decrease in a risk
factor for a disease or to normal growth in children (e.g. claims
related to cholesterol lowering and the reduction of the disease
risk factor for heart disease or to claims like: calcium is needed
for normal growth and development of bone in children)
c. Health claims based on new scientific evidence or proprietary
37. What is the
difference between a nutrition claim and a health
A nutrition claim states or suggests that a food has beneficial
nutritional properties, such as "low fat", "no added sugar" and
"high in fibre". A health claim is any statement on labels,
marketing or advertising that health benefits can result from
consuming a given food, for instance that a food can lower
cholesterol and that elevated cholesterol is a risk factor for
38. What is a
disease risk reduction claim for food?
This completely new category of health claims has been
introduced in the new European legislation on nutrition and health
claims. Disease risk reduction claims refer to the reduction of a
disease risk factor and must be supported by strong scientific
evidence. If the science behind an ingredient (or a food) has been
substantiated by the European Food Safety Authority and approved by
the EU commission, a disease risk reduction claim can be used.
39. What does the
disease risk reduction claim for the cholesterol lowering
ingredient in Benecol® products say?
The disease risk reduction claim relating to Plant stanol ester
was among the first disease risk reduction claims authorised by the
European Commission confirming that:'plant stanol ester has been
shown to lower blood cholesterol. High cholesterol is a risk factor
in the development of Coronary Heart Disease'.
40. It is
written in the packaging: "Coronary heart disease has multiple risk
factors and altering one of these may or may not lower the risk".
What does this mean?
Coronary heart disease has several risk factors. Some of these
cannot be modified (such as age, sex or genetic background) but
many of them can. Such modifiable risk factors are e.g. blood
cholesterol, blood pressure and smoking. Lowering cholesterol is
likely to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease but it is also
important to pay attention to the other modifiable risk
41. What is coronary
Coronary heart disease (CHD) is a condition in which the small
blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart (coronary
arteries) are narrowed. This narrowing is caused by atherosclerosis
which occurs when fatty material and plaque build up on the walls
of the arteries. As the coronary arteries narrow, blood flow to the
heart can slow down or stop, which can cause chest pain, shortness
of breath, or a heart attack. Factors like elevated LDL
cholesterol, smoking and high blood pressure increase the risk of
coronary heart disease.
42. Why is reducing
cholesterol and thus the risk of CHD so important?
High cholesterol is one of the main risk factors of Coronary
Heart Disease (CHD). According to World Health Organization 2004
global estimates, CHD caused an estimated 7.2 million deaths and
accounted for approximately 12.2% of all deaths worldwide. It is
estimated that 80% of people with CHD have at least one risk factor
that is modifiable by either diet or lifestyle.
WHO: Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs). (WHO fact sheet no. 317).
Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization (WHO); 2011.
Available at: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs317/en/index.html
[Updated January 2011]