Harvard Heart Letter

Ask the doctor: Is CholestOff safe to take for someone who has had breast cancer?

Q. I have been taking CholestOff for a few years to lower my cholesterol. Does CholestOff have any long-term side effects that might be a problem for breast cancer survivors like me?

A. The active ingredients in CholestOff are an amalgamation of sterols and stanols extracted from pine trees. The most common of these are beta-sitosterol, campesterol, and stigmasterol. Plant sterols and stanols help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol by blocking the absorption of cholesterol from food. This forces the body to draw LDL out of the bloodstream in order to extract its cholesterol to make bile acid and hormones.

According to the latest national guidelines on cholesterol, eating two grams of plant sterols or stanols a day can lower LDL by 6% to 15%. You can get this amount from foods fortified with sterols and stanols, such as some brands of margarine, yogurt, orange juice, granola bars, and even tortilla chips. Or you can get it from supplements such as CholestOff — four caplets of CholestOff deliver 1.8 grams.

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