Cholesterol levels are strongly related to the risk of coronary heart disease, which is one of the major causes of premature death in industrialized countries. A rise in blood cholesterol also increases the risk of diabetes, cancers and liver disease. A reduction of blood cholesterol levels is therefore very important, specifically, the level of the LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) in relation to the HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol).
Intake of plant sterols (phytosterol) can lower the blood cholesterol concentrations in humans. A clinical study conducted by Aalborg University Hospital in Denmark has shown that dietary consumption of shea nut oil high in unsaponifiable matter reduces the blood cholesterol levels. In the study, the subjects with normal to borderline blood cholesterol levels were given shea nut oil spread 30 gram per day for 6 consecutive weeks. A control group of subjects were given sunflower oil spread of the same amount and duration, for the purpose of comparison.
The result indicates that the reduction in total blood cholesterol was mostly seen by the drop in LDL cholesterol, while the HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) stayed in the same level.
The “bad” LDL cholesterol dropped by 8%, while the “good” HDL cholesterol remained unaffected.
In comparison with sunflower oil, shea nut oil was more effective in reducing the total cholesterol levels.
Furthermore, the study shows after the shea nut oil diet, the triglycerides in blood has been reduced by 4%, and the lp(a) and apolipoprotein B (variants of LDL which are responsible for carrying fat molecules around the body) have both been reduced by 7%.