Many vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds contain campesterol, but in low concentrations. Banana, pomegranate, pepper, coffee, grapefruit, cucumber, onion, oat, potato, and lemon grass (citronella) are few examples of common sources containing campesterol at ~1–7 mg/100 g of the edible portion. In contrast canola and corn oil contain as much as 16–100 mg/100 g. Levels are variable and are influenced by geography and growing environment. In addition, different strains have different levels of plant sterols. A number of new genetic strains are currently being engineered with the goal of producing varieties high in campesterol and other plant sterols. It is also found in dandelion coffee.
It is so named because it was first isolated from the rapeseed (Brassica campestris). It is thought to have anti-inflammatory effects. It was demonstrated that it inhibits several pro-inflammatory and matrix degradation mediators typically involved in osteoarthritis-induced cartilage degradation.
Precursor of anabolic steroid boldenone
Being a steroid, campesterol is a precursor of anabolic steroid boldenone. Boldenone undecylenate is commonly used in veterinary medicine to induce growth in cattle but it is also one of the most commonly abused anabolic steroids in sports. This led to suspicion that some athletes testing positive on boldenone undecylenate did not actually abuse the hormone itself but consumed food rich in campesterol or similar phytosteroids.
It was first shown in the 1950s that plant sterols are beneficial in lowering LDLs and cholesterol. Since then, numerous studies have also reported the beneficial effects of the dietary intake of phytosterols, including campesterol.
It is thought that the campesterol molecules compete with cholesterol and thus reduces the absorption of cholesterol in the human intestine. Plant sterols may also act directly on intestinal cells and affect transporter proteins. In addition, there may be an effect on the synthesis of cholesterol transporting proteins in the liver cells through processes including cholesterol esterification and lipoprotein assembly, cholesterol synthesis, and apolipoprotein (apo) B100-containing lipoprotein removal.
Serum levels of campesterol and the ratio of campesterol to cholesterol have been proposed as measures of cardiac risk. Some studies have suggested that higher levels predict lower cardiac risk. However, extremely high levels are thought to be indicative of higher risk, as indicated by genetic disorders such as sitosterolemia. Study results of serum levels have been conflicting. A recent meta-analysis suggests that there is no clear relationship, and that perhaps previous studies have been confounded by other factors. For example, people who have a higher campesterol level related to a diet high in fruits and nuts may be consuming a healthy Mediterrean-style diet and thus have lower risk because of other lipids or lifestyle factors. Intestinal absorption of cholesterol varies between individuals, and it is possible that a higher absorption of plant sterols is related to a higher absorption of LDL.
Although studies in humans have shown that consumption of phytosterols may reduce LDL levels, there is insufficient evidence to recommend them as a treatment for hypercholesterolemia. Larger trials are needed to provide such evidence, and are underway. Animal studies have shown that campesterol and other phytosterols can reduce the size of atherogenic plaques, but there is no data yet to shown that consumption of phytosterols result in any clinical benefit such as a reduction in atherosclerosis, heart disease, cardiac events, or mortality.
Reduction in beta-carotene levels
Excessive supplementation with plant sterols may be associated with reductions in beta-carotene levels.
Reduction in lycopene levels
Excessive supplementation with plant sterols may be associated with reductions in lycopene levels.
Reduction in vitamin E levels
One small study showed no significant side effects after 15 weeks other than a slight reduction in vitamin E levels, which was not significant after LDL cholesterol levels were taken into consideration. However, the authors concluded that excessive long term consumption of plant sterols might have a deleterious effect on vitamin E.
Increased risk of atherogenesis and cardiovascular disease
Excessive use of plant sterols has been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and genetic conditions that cause extremely elevated levels of some phytosterols, such as sitosterol, are associated with higher risks of cardiovascular disease. However, this is an active area of debate, and there is no data to suggest that modestly elevated levels of campestrol have a negative cardiac impact.
^Fernholz, Erhard; MacPhillamy, H. B. (1941). "Isolation of a New Phytosterol: Campesterol". Journal of the American Chemical Society63 (4): 1155. doi:10.1021/ja01849a079.
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