Beta-sitosterol, a substance found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, has plenty of promising medical functions. Primarily, it lowers cholesterol, which lowers risk of cancer and heart disease. It also treats benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or enlargement of the prostate, by reducing inflammation and treating urination problems.
However, any ingredient with powerful effects may also have a risk of side effects. Let’s look closer at beta-sitosterol and its side effects so you can determine whether it’s right for you.
Beta-sitosterol has shown to be safe in studies.
In order to examine long-term safety of beta-sitosterol and other plant sterol esters, scientists examined the effects on volunteers who ate a 20 g spread enriched with 1.6 g plant sterols daily for one year. The spread consistently lowered cholesterol.
Scientists noted, “Adverse events reported were not different between subjects consuming control spread and subjects consuming plant sterol esters-enriched spread.”
Additionally, sitosterol was also given to children with hypercholesterolemia. It reduced cholesterol with no obvious side effects.
For the most part, beta-sitosterol is safe to use, but there’s still a risk of certain side effects.
Some users have reported side effects from beta-sitosterol such as nausea, indigestion, gas, or constipation. These side effects are bothersome, but not dangerous. Taking beta-sitosterol within the recommended dosages should minimize side effects, although it reacts differently for everyone.
Although some claim beta-sitosterol increases sex drive, others say it may lower sexual desire and cause erectile dysfunction. This is because beta-sitosterol affects male hormones such as testosterone and dihydrotestosterone. Again, reactions are different for each individual.
Like any medication, beta-sitosterol may cause allergic reaction in some users. This could include rash, hives, swelling, difficulty breathing, or changes in heart rate or blood pressure.
Reduced Absorbency of Vitamin E
Beta-sitosterol may reduce some people’s ability to absorb vitamin E and carotenes. These people can prevent deficiencies by eating food rich in vitamin E.
Patients with sitosterolemia already have too much beta-sitosterol in their bodies, so adding more could clog arteries and damage the heart. This side effect could lead to heart disease.
Reactions with Medications
Beta-sitosterol may react with Ezetimibe (Zetia) and Pravastatin (Pravachol). These medications may reduce the amount of beta-sitosterol the body absorbs, decreasing its effects.
Beta-Sitosterol: Is it For You?
If you struggle with high cholesterol or BPH, it may be a good idea to talk to your doctor about using beta-sitosterol.
However, if you have sitosterolemia, beta-sitosterol isn’t for you. You should also avoid it if you are pregnant or nursing, as its safety has not been proven in these cases.
For the most part, beta-sitosterol has shown to be both safe and effective. If you experience side effects, discontinue use and see a doctor.