Stigmasterol review by Ray Sahelian, M.D.
February 8, 2014

Phytosterols are plant sterols structurally similar to cholesterol. They include mainly campesterol, sitosterol, stigmasterol, and their respective stanols (5 alpha-saturated derivatives), which chemically resemble cholesterol. They are present in a normal diet bur less than 0.1% of serum sterols are plant sterols. A phytochemical-rich, plant-based diet is of importance in reducing risks of hormone-related neoplasms.
   There are a number of phytosterols including beta sitosterol, stigmasterol, campesterol, and brassicasterol. Certain herbs have a high concentration of phytosterols, for instance, saw palmetto.

Benefit of Stigmasterol and Phytosterols
Epidemiologic and experimental studies suggest that dietary plant sterols may offer protection from the most common cancers in Western societies, such as colon, breast and prostate cancer. The reasons may include the effect of phytosterols on membrane structure and function of tumor and host tissue, signal transduction pathways that regulate tumor growth and apoptosis, immune function of the host and cholesterol metabolism by the host.

Phytosterols and Cholesterol
Phytosterols inhibit intestinal cholesterol absorption, and fat-soluble plant stanol esters were introduced as a functional food for lowering serum cholesterol in the early 1990s; plant sterol esters entered the market at the end of the 1990s. Inhibition of the intestinal absorption of cholesterol stimulates cholesterol synthesis, a factor which limits serum cholesterol lowering to about 10% with phytosterols. Enrichment of the diet with plant stanol esters reduces absorption and serum concentrations of both cholesterol and plant sterols, whereas enrichment of the diet with plant sterol esters, especially in combination with statins, lowers serum cholesterol but increases serum plant sterol levels. Long-term cholesterol lowering, needed for the prevention of coronary heart disease, may be successful with plant stanol esters, which lower serum cholesterol in both genders over at least a year.

Stigmasterol and Cholesterol
Plant sterols compete with cholesterol for intestinal absorption to limit absorption and lower plasma concentrations of cholesterol. Stigmasterol (24-ethyl-cholesta-5,22-dien-3beta-ol; Delta(22) derivative of sitosterol [24-ethyl-cholest-5-en-3beta-ol]), but not campesterol (24-methyl-cholest-5-en-3beta-ol) and sitosterol, is reported to inhibit cholesterol biosynthesis via inhibition of sterol Delta(24)-reductase in human Caco-2 and HL-60 cell lines. Researchers studied the effect of feeding 0.5% stigmasterol on plasma and liver sterols and intestinal cholesterol and sitosterol absorption in 12 wild-type Kyoto (WKY) and 12 Wistar rats. After 3 weeks of feeding, cholesterol and sitosterol absorption was determined in 6 rats from each group by plasma dual-isotope ratio method. After 3 more weeks, plasma and hepatic sterols and hepatic enzyme activities were determined in all rats. After feeding stigmasterol, baseline plasma cholesterol was 1.3 times and plant sterols 3 times greater in WKY compared with Wistar rats. Stigmasterol feeding lowered plasma cholesterol by approximately 11%, whereas plasma campesterol and sitosterol levels were virtually unchanged in both rat strains, and stigmasterol constituted 3.2% of plasma sterols in WKY rats and 1% in Wistar rats. After 6 weeks of feeding, cholesterol and sitosterol absorption decreased 23% and 30%, respectively, in WKY, and 22% and 16%, respectively, in the Wistar rats as compared with untreated rats. In conclusion, stigmasterol, when fed, lowers plasma cholesterol levels, inhibits intestinal cholesterol and plant sterol absorption, and suppresses hepatic cholesterol and classic bile acid synthesis in Wistar as well as WKY rats. However, plasma and hepatic incorporation of stigmasterol is low.

Liver cancer
BMB Rep. December 2013. Stigmasterol isolated from marine microalgae Navicula incerta induces apoptosis in human hepatoma HepG2 cells.

Side effects
Could very high dosages taken as supplements cause heart valve accumulation and stenosis?

Phytosterol complex 350 mg
beta sitosterol 140 mg
campersterol 70 mg
Stigmasterol 60 mg
Brassicasterol 5 mg

Inquiries
I am taking a supplement (2000 mg/day for my high LDL and triglyceride) which contains Beta Sitosterol 400 mg, Campesterol 270 mg, Stigmasterol 100 mg and Brassicasterol 100 mg. I know Beta Sitosterol are good for cholesterol, but I read in numerous articles that people with heart attacks and strokes have had high levels of Campesterol and Stigmasterol in their blood. So, I am worried if I should stop this supplement.
   I prefer not taking such high amounts on a daily basis.