Foods containing plant sterol or stanol esters can be beneficial in lowering LDL-cholesterol concentration, a major risk factor for CVD. The present study examined whether high dietary intake of rapeseed oil (RSO) derived plant sterol and stanol esters is associated with increased levels of these components in brain tissue of homozygous and heterozygous Watanabe rabbits, an animal model for familial hypercholesterolemia. Homozygous animals received either a standard diet, RSO stanol or RSO sterol ester while heterozygous animals were additionally fed with 2 g cholesterol/kg to the respective diet form for 120 d (n 9 for each group). Concentrations of cholesterol, its precursor lathosterol, plant sterols and stanols in brain and additionally in liver and plasma were determined by highly sensitive GC–MS. High-dose intake of RSO derived plant sterols and stanols resulted in increased levels of these components in plasma and liver. In brain a limited uptake of plant sterols and stanols was proven, indicating that these compounds passed the blood–brain barrier and may be retained in the brain tissue of Watanabe rabbits. Plant stanol ester feeding lowered plant sterol levels in brain, liver, and plasma. Cholesterol synthesis in brain, indicated by lathosterol, a local surrogate cholesterol synthesis marker, does not seem to be affected by plant sterol or stanol ester feeding. We conclude that high dose intake of plant sterol and stanol esters in Watanabe rabbits results in elevated concentrations of these components not only in the periphery but also in the central nervous system.
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