If you have some health issues with cholesterol, than you most probably have heard of beta-sitosterol, a plant substance sold as a dietary supplement to reduce the cholesterol levels. According to a recent study, beta-sitosterol might also help reduce anxiety.
The study focused on the behaviour of mices under stressful conditions and found that mices with beta-sitosterol showed less fear and anxiety than the control group. Moreover, beta-sitosterol didn’t have any side effects compared to any antianxiety medication.
The researchers also tested the effects of beta-sitosterol when given in combination with fluoxetine, a drug belonging to the class of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs (a.o. Prozac). The tested combination turned to have a synergistic effect: both beta-sitosterol and fluoxetine together reduced the anxiety of mice at lower doses, compared with the doses needed to achieve the same effect if taken separately.
How exactly beta-sitosterol influences anxiety is still to be discovered, but the researchers already know that the activated expression of several genes in stressful situations was reduced in mice with the supplement.
Since the study focused on brain regions and neural pathways that are involved in regulating anxiety in both mice and humans, it is likely that the findings will apply to people as well. This requires further clinical testing. Till then it would not hurt to start with food, containing beta-sitosterol, if you experience anxiety. This plant substance is found in particularly large concentrations in avocados, but also in pistachios, almonds and other nuts, in canola oil, in various grains and cereals. However, please, don’t expect that only eating avocado will help you with anxiety as you need to eat a lot to get the right dose. But a little bit (f.e. 1 avocado) on a daily basis will not harm until we know for sure that beta-sitosterol relieves anxiety in people.
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