Raisio Group licenses the Benecol brand and sells the ingredient stanol ester to food companies around the world. The brand is licensed in more than 30 countries by local food companies such as Kaiku in Spain, Colanta in Colombia, Lotte in South Korea, Kalbe Nutritionals in Indonesia and Johnson & Johnson in the US.
Effects on health
The European Commission approved the following statement regarding Benecol products: "Plant stanol esters have been shown to lower/reduce blood cholesterol. Blood cholesterol lowering may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease" but noted that "there are no studies demonstrating that plant stanol esters have an impact on population-based CHD morbidity and mortality rates".
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence of England and Wales similarly found that while "[t]here is evidence that foods containing plant sterols and stanols reduce cholesterol levels", the government body concludes that "there is not enough evidence at the moment that these products prevent cardiovascular disease."
Effects on cholesterol
Benecol contains plant-based cholesterols such as plant stanols or sterols. This displaces cholesterol from micelles so less is absorbed in small intestine. However, plant-based cholesterols get pumped out of enterocyte cells so are not absorbed effectively.
The European Commission has authorised that an LDL-cholesterol lowering effect of 7 - 10% can be achieved in 2–3 weeks by a daily intake of plant stanol esters equivalent to 1.5 – 2.4 g of plant stanols in an appropriate food.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognizes the role of plant stanols in lowering blood total and LDL cholesterol, and has authorized a “Health Claim Meeting Significant Scientific Agreement (SSA)” for use on certain foods to which plant stanols have been added. The following is the FDA model health claim, to which certain designated optional modifications may be made: “Foods containing at least 0.5g per serving of plant stanols eaten with meals or snacks for a daily total intake of 2g as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease. A serving of Benecol buttery spread supplies 1 g of plant stanols."
Consuming more than 3g of plant stanol per day is not recommended and Benecol foods may not be appropriate for pregnant or breast feeding women, and children under 5 years old.
Benecol foods have been found as a way to reduce cholesterol and they also can help lower cholesterol in people that are taking statins. However, it is important that those already taking cholesterol lowering medication consult with their GP (Primary Care Physician) before embarking on dietary cholesterol programmes.
About the products
The first Benecol product was a spread that was brought to market in Finland in 1995. Since then, the product line has expanded to fat spreads, yogurts, yogurt drinks, cream cheese style spreads, milk and soy drinks, bread and oatmeal. The availability of different products varies in different countries.
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- Martikainen, Janne A.; Ottelin, Anne-Mari; Kiviniemi, Vesa; Gylling, Helena (28 August 2016). "Plant stanol esters are potentially cost-effective in the prevention of coronary heart disease in men: Bayesian modelling approach". European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention & Rehabilitation. 14 (2): 265–272. doi:10.1097/01.hjr.0000216550.74258.12. PMID 17446806.
- Blair, Steven N; Capuzzi, David M; Gottlieb, Sidney O; Nguyen, Tu; Morgan, John M; Cater, Nilo B (July 2000). "Incremental reduction of serum total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol with the addition of plant stanol ester-containing spread to statin therapy". The American Journal of Cardiology. 86 (1): 46–52. doi:10.1016/S0002-9149(00)00976-0. PMID 10867091.