London, May 31 : Low cholesterol spreads, yogurts and drinks may not cut heart attack and stroke risk, according to a report by NHS rationing body.
According the to a guidance released by National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), doctors should not recommend low cholesterol spreads, yogurts and drinks to people as there is not enough evidence that they are good for heart.
The document said that GPs should prescribe statins, which are proven to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
They are known to reduce the levels of bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol levels in the blood, which would enhance the health of heart and reduce heart attack or stroke risk.
The spreads and yogurts contain plant sterols and stanols, which help lower bad cholesterol levels by blocking its absorption from the bloodstream.
"There is evidence that foods containing plant sterols and stanols reduce cholesterol levels. It is generally supposed that reducing cholesterol levels leads to reductions in cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke) however this is not necessarily always the case," Telegraph quoted a NICE spokesman, as saying.
"Some substances may lower cholesterol, but there may not be evidence to say clearly that they also prevent cardiovascular disease." The report said that it is still not clear whether using them would lower heart attack risk.
The document said: "If you are at higher risk (of a heart attack or stroke within the next ten years) your GP or nurse will not recommend that you use spreads, drinks and yogurts containing plant sterols and stanols to lower cholesterol because there is not enough evidence at the moment that these products prevent cardiovascular disease."
But Dr Ian Campbell, a GP and medical director of the charity Weight Concern, said that although NICE was sticking to the absolute proven evidence, there was also room for a common sense approach.
"If my patients ask me if they can use Benecol or Flora pro.activ to lower their cholesterol I would say, 'Yes, no problem'. It gives patients a sense of control and that they are doing something to help themselves as well as getting them to focus on their diet," he said.
"But they would not get the same effect as with a statin and so those at high risk should not rely on these products alone," he added.
Flora pro.activ and Benecol, are the most popular cholesterol-lowering foods.
A spokesman from Unilever, which makes the Flora pro.activ range, said: "There is a great wealth of evidence that reducing cholesterol leads to reductions in risk of cardiovascular disease."
"Under current legislation it is not possible for a food to make disease risk reduction claims, and as such Flora pro.activ only makes claims about reducing cholesterol in all communications," he added.