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Revolutionary Spread Offers New Hope

Revolutionary Spread Offers New Hope To New Zealanders Fighting Cholesterol

A revolutionary new margarine spread, which can lower cholesterol by 10 per cent in just three weeks, has been launched in New Zealand today. Flora pro-activ spread utilises the benefits of a natural plant ingredient called plant sterols - now recognised as a new weapon in the fight against cholesterol.

Jim Mann, Professor in Human Nutrition and Medicine at the University of Otago, has described the introduction of plant sterol- enriched spreads "as one of the most exciting and significant developments in the dietary control of cholesterol." Plant sterol spreads are a simple and natural way to lower blood cholesterol for the 69% of adult New Zealanders with elevated cholesterol levels.(1)

Elevated cholesterol levels are a major contributor to coronary heart disease, which remains the largest single cause of death in New Zealand, each day claiming around one life every hour.(2)

Plant sterols are a natural ingredient in many foods in our diet including vegetables, nuts and seeds. The cholesterol-lowering effect of plant sterols has been known for over 40 years. The average diet however, does not contain sufficient plant sterols to achieve a significant reduction in cholesterol levels. Enriching a spread with plant sterols has created, in Flora pro-activ, a new and simple way to incorporate an effective level of plant sterols into the daily diet to achieve a cholesterol reduction. A similar product from Unilever has been recently reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration and launched in the US. The product conforms to the Australian Food Standards Code and is therefore in compliance with the New Zealand regulations.

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Plant sterols are similar in structure to cholesterol and work by reducing the absorption of cholesterol from the intestine. The cholesterol-lowering effects are supported by clinical trials documented in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers found that normal daily use of a spread enriched with plant sterols (around 25 grams spread on 3-4 slices of bread a day) can reduce the `bad' LDL cholesterol by 10 per cent in three weeks. Importantly there is no effect on the `good' HDL cholesterol. Clinical trials demonstrate that by moving to a healthy diet, even greater reductions can be achieved.(3-5)

In New Zealand, 69% of the adult population (or two out of three adult New Zealanders) have cholesterol levels higher than those recommended by the National Heart Foundation. The good news is that even moderate reductions in cholesterol can have a major benefit. For example reducing cholesterol by 10 per cent can, over time, reduce the risk of heart disease by up to 20 per cent.

According to Professor Mann a 10 per cent reduction in cholesterol will produce a 20 to 30 per cent reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease. Professor Mann acknowledges that adopting a cholesterol-lowering diet, while important, is not always easy. "I think that the cornerstone of dietary advice will continue to be the reduction of saturated fat. For many people, the addition of a plant sterol-enriched spread will help to achieve an even greater reduction of cholesterol. For people with mild to moderately elevated cholesterol levels, using a plant sterol- enriched spread may avoid the need for medication."

Flora pro-activ, which has the National Heart Foundation `Tick of Approval', is suggested for anyone with an elevated cholesterol level. It is now available from supermarkets around New Zealand. At around $5.29 for a 250 gram tub - a cost of around 50 cents per day - Flora pro-activ is a simple and cost effective cholesterol management tool.


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