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Proponents say that sterols boost the immune function of healthy people (who want to prevent colds and other illnesses) and people with diseases (like HIV), and that they also reduce cholesterol.

Plant Sterols are fat compounds that are structurally similar to blood cholesterol. Soybeans and flaxseeds are especially rich sources. You may know sterols as an ingredient added to some margarines that are designed to lower cholesterol. As a supplement, sterols are usually combined with sterolins, sugar molecules derived from plants. Research on the benefits of sterols and sterolins for immunity was conducted recently.

The sterol-sterolin combination stimulates your body to produce additional cells that help your immune system fight off a virus, says Patrick Bouic, Ph.D., head of the immunology department at Stellenbosch University in Cape Town, South Africa, and co-author of The Immune System Cure (Kensington, 1999).

Researchers believe that taking sterols before you eat a meal blocks cholesterol receptors, located mainly in your liver, limiting the amount of dietary cholesterol your body absorbs.

(Source: Natural Health magazine, Supplement Flash; online at www.naturalhealthmag.com.)

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