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Reduce cholesterol by up to 15% by drinking milk and eating yoghurt

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Plant sterol enriched dairy available in Australian first New research shows Australians aged 40+ find it hard to manage their cholesterol and only half have been successful in reducing their cholesterol – many Australians demand new ways of cholesterol management.

Australians can now use daily staples such as milk and yogurt to help lower their cholesterol. This follows research showing that plant sterol enriched low fat dairy can contribute to reducing cholesterol levels. In an Australian first, plant sterols will now be introduced to dairy.

Plant sterols are a naturally occurring component of plants and have been clinically proven to lower LDL cholesterol by up to 15% in 3 weeks for milk and 8 weeks for yoghurt. The availability of plant sterol enriched low fat milk and yoghurt for the first time in Australia will provide 6.4 million (51%) Australians aged 25+ with a convenient option to assist in the overall management of cholesterol.

Australia’s leading dairy producer, National Foods, is the first to introduce a range of low-fat plant sterol enriched dairy products, under the HeartActiveTM trademark, in trusted brands such as Pura and Yoplait.

The introduction comes as a new national survey reported that management of cholesterol is a significant issue for many Australians aged 40+. These Australians struggle to maintain their diet (56%) and exercise (55%) due to a lack of motivation (76%), inconvenience (31%) and the amount of time (26%) these strategies impose on their daily routine.

Consuming two to three serves of plant sterol enriched low fat milk or yoghurt every day can provide up to 2.4 grams of plant sterols. The National Heart Foundation of Australia advises that 2-3 grams of plant sterols daily can help lower LDL cholesterol, said a National Foods spokesperson.

"One serve is equal to a 250mL glass of milk or a 200g tub of yoghurt. This simply means enjoying low fat, plant sterol enriched milk with cereal, in a latte, hot chocolate, as a smoothie or in cooking, or a tub of plant sterol enriched low fat yoghurt as a nutritious snack", he said.

Leading industry body Dairy Australia welcomed the change allowing the addition of plant sterols to dairy food such as low fat milk and yoghurt.

"Dairy foods are an important and trusted part of the Australian diet because of their high nutritional value. The inclusion of plant sterols in some low fat milks and yoghurts is great news They now have a wider choice of foods that are shown to lower blood cholesterol as part of a healthy diet," Dr Malcolm Riley, Dairy Australia’s Nutrition Manager said.

Dr Riley also commented that "the development of functional foods – those with enhanced health benefits – has great relevance for people who are health conscious but time poor. This is particularly true for frequently consumed and convenient foods such as dairy food."

New 2007 research released by National Foods addresses a major gap in attitudinal insights on the management of cholesterol by Australians aged 40+ and their compliance with current management regimes4.

Key research highlights:

  • Diet (79%) and exercise (64%) are the most popular ways to manage cholesterol, with medication being used by only 39% of Australians aged 40+.
  • Of those that use medication 69% have been successful in reducing their cholesterol.
  • Many Australians aged 40+ are looking for new ways to manage cholesterol especially if it does not depend on medication and does not impact lifestyle.
  • Milk and yoghurt have been rated amongst the top 5 best options for functional foods to lower cholesterol.

Plant sterols are mainly found in plant foods such as nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits and vegetables, however the average daily intake is too small to have an impact on lowering cholesterol, said Mr Rupert Hugh-Jones.

"With global evidence demonstrating plant sterols’ role in reducing cholesterol the Australian Government approved in November 2006, the use of plant sterols in milk, yoghurt and cereal. Previously, plant sterols were only approved for use in margarines."

A total of ten clinical trials in low fat dairy products have proven the beneficial effects of plant sterol on total and LDL cholesterol1. Particular trials have found that consuming an average of 2 grams of plant sterols every day in low fat dairy products can lower LDL cholesterol by up to 15% in three weeks for milk and eight weeks for yoghurt.2

"The clinical trials substantiating the cholesterol lowering benefits of plant sterol enriched foods were done with individuals on both heart healthy diets and ‘normal’ diets.1 However, it is always recommended that individuals enjoy a healthy diet, rich in fruits, vegetables and wholegrains and low in saturated fat and complemented by regular exercise.

"Plant sterol enriched foods can work in addition to cholesterol reducing medication however, we always advise that people taking cholesterol medication should talk to their doctor about the best way to incorporate plant sterol enriched foods into their cholesterol management plan."


  1. Clifton (2004) EJCN 58, 503-509; Volpe (2001) BJN 86, 223-239; Thomsen (2004) EJCN 58, 860-70; Pouteau (2003) EJN 42(3), 154-164; Noakes (2005) 44, 214-222; Korpela (2006) 60, 633-642; Mensink (2002) Atherosclerosis 160, 205-213; Doornbos (2006) EJCN 60, 325-333; Salo & Wester (2005) Am J Cardiol, 96(S): 51-54D; Beer (2001) Ann Nutr Metab 45:99.
  2. Clifton (2004) EJCN 58, 503-509; Volpe (2001) BJN 86, 223-239
  3. National Centre for Monitoring Cardiovascular Disease, May 2004. Heart, stroke and vascular diseases – Australian facts 2004. Cardiovascular Disease Series Number 22; Australian Institute of Health and Welfare; National Heart Foundation of Australia – AIHW Cat. No. CVD 27
  4. The research was conducted by Galaxy Research across capital cities and regional areas in Australia and involved a sample of 319 respondents aged 40+ with high cholesterol. Age, gender and region quotas were applied to ensure the sample reflected the Australian population aged 40+.
  5. Plant Sterols and Stanols Fact Sheet, The National Heart of Foundation, August 2003
  6. Gazettal notice – Amendment No.89 (FSC 31), 9th November 2006.
  7. Katan (2003) Mayo Clin Proc 78, 965-978

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Posted On: 24 January, 2007
Modified On: 16 January, 2014


Created by: myVMC