Canadian biopharmaceutical company Forbes Medi-Tech this week reports on study results showing that chocolate, containing its cholesterol-lowering phytosterol ingredient Reducol, significantly reduced LDL cholesterol in people with slightly raised cholesterol levels.
In the study, published last month in the British Journal of Nutrition, 70 participants with mild hypercholesterolemia ate three 10g servings of the phytosterol-enriched chocolate daily over a period of four weeks - this provided 1.8g of unesterified phytosterols. The control groupconsumed placebo portions of chocolate that contained no phytosterolsupplement. All subjects consumed a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet bothbefore and during the study period.
At the end of the study, blood levels of both total and LDL-cholesterol levels had significantly dropped by 6.4 per cent (-0.44 millimoles per litre (mmol/l)) and 10.3 per cent (-0.49mmol/l), respectively when compared to the placebo group.
The results demonstrate the role that functional foods can play in the fight against heart disease. According to the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP),there are approximately 100 million individuals in North America at risk of the disease. The NCEP recommends that such individuals consume foods containing plant phytosterols.
"Functional food has not always been palatable," said study director DrHaydn Pritchard of the University of British Columbia in Canada. "Focusing on theconsumer's appetite for lowering cholesterol, we felt the Belgium trufflechocolates containing Reducol provided an appealing vehicle to lowertheir cholesterol - and taste good."
Forbes' cholesterol-lowering ingredients can be included in a widevariety of foods such as dairy products, baked goods, and cookingoil.
The chocolate study results, originally submitted in 2001, adds to thestrength of evidence of the health benefits of Reducol in adifferent food than currently available. Forbes will also be hoping that the results prove useful for future partnership or licensing agreements with foodmanufacturers.
Forbes licensed the rights to its ingredient, originally called Phytrol, to Novartis in 1999 for use in a number of food applications. Novartis, which created the name Reducol, formed a joint venture with Quaker Oats to sell these products, but this was dissolved earlier this year after Quaker was bought out by PepsiCo. Forbes bought back the rights to the ingredient and brand name in June for US$2.5 million.
Forbes Medi-Tech, which extracts plant sterols from woodpulping by-products, is currentlyawaiting a response from regulatory authorities in the US, EuropeanUnion and Canada regarding a health claim supporting the health benefits ofphytosterols related to cardiovascular health.