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Use of plant stanol ester margarine among persons with and without cardiovascular disease: Early phases of the adoption of a functional food in Finland

Meri Simojoki1, Riitta Luoto2*, Antti Uutela1, Hannu Rita3, John D Boice45, Joseph K McLaughlin4 and Pekka Puska1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Epidemiology and Health Promotion, National Public Health Institute, Helsinki, Finland

2 The UKK Institute for Health Promotion, Tampere, Finland

3 Department of Forest Resource Management, University of Helsinki, Finland

4 International Epidemiology Institute, Rockville, Maryland, USA

5 Department of Medicine, Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, Nashville TN, USA

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Nutrition Journal 2005, 4:20  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-4-20

Published: 1 June 2005



The plant stanol ester margarine Benecol® is a functional food that has been shown to lower effectively serum total and LDL-cholesterol. The purpose of this post-marketing study is to characterize users of plant stanol ester margarine with and without cardiovascular disease.


A cohort of plant stanol ester margarine users was established based on a compilation of 15 surveys conducted by the National Public Health Institute in Finland between 1996–2000. There were 29 772 subjects aged 35–84 years in the cohort. The users of plant stanol ester margarine were identified by the type of bread spread used.


The plant stanol ester margarine was used as bread spread by 1332 (4.5%) subjects. Almost half (46%) of the users reported a history of cardiovascular disease. Persons with cardiovascular disease were more likely to use plant stanol ester margarine (8%) than persons without cardiovascular disease (3%). Users with and without cardiovascular disease seemed to share similar characteristics.

In particular, they were elderly people with otherwise healthy life-styles and diet. They were less likely smokers, more likely physically active and less likely obese than nonusers. The users reported being in good or average health in general and having used cholesterol-lowering drugs.


Plant stanol ester margarine seems to be used by persons for whom it was designed and in a way it was meant: as part of efforts for cardiovascular disease risk reduction.

Plant stanol; margarine; life-style; cardiovascular disease; Finland