Pterostilbene is an antioxidant nutrient found in blueberries and other foods. It's related to resveratrol. Some dietary supplements are using pterostilbene instead of resveratrol because it's supposed to be better. But is it really better? Some research suggests pterostilbene might raise bad cholesterol (LDL) levels. This would make it bad for people with heart disease or anyone trying to reduce heart disease risk. In this pterostilbene review, let's look at the research showing elevations in LDL levels and see what we can figure out.
What Is Pterostilbene
Pterostilbene (say, “tero-still-bean”) is a member of a class of dietary compounds called stilbenes ( say, “still-bean”). Resveratrol is also a member of the stilbene family.
In one lab animal study, 80% of pterostilbene was absorbed, compared to only 20% for resveratrol.
Since Pterostilbene looks like resveratrol (chemically speaking) and we absorb it better, the idea is it's better than resveratrol.
That's the theory anyway…
Foods With Pterostilbene
Generally, berries and grapes are good sources of pterostilbene. Other foods containing this nutrient include:
- Red grapes
These foods also contain resveratrol too.
The amount of pterostilbene in foods depends on which food we are talking about. Overall, the amount is not much, usually in the nanogram level (1 billionth of a gram).
In other words, foods don't have a lot of this stuff.
Some supplements contain 50 mg in 1 capsule. That's a boatload compared to what's in food.
Pterostilbene Health Benefits
A lot of people say pterostilbene is healthy -and there is some research to back them up. Various studies have noted this nutrient has the following properties:
It might even protect us against cancer.
But, most of the proof comes from studies involving:
- lab animals
- isolated cells in a test tube
What about people?
Pterostilbene has less human clinical research than resveratrol. One reason is resveratrol has been around longer and has been studied more. Eventually, that's likely going to change.
Does Pterostilbene Raise LDL?
- pterostilbene: 125 mg twice a day (250 mg total)
- pterostilbene: 50 mg twice a day (100 mg total)
- pterostilbene: 50 mg + grape extract (GE) 100 mg twice a day
- Placebo group
The study lasted 6-8 weeks.
These researchers noted LDL levels increased significantly when people took 100-250 mg of pterostilbene a day.
The increase in bad cholesterol was about 17 mg/dl. That's quite a lot if you ask me.
For some, a 17 point increase in bad cholesterol could push someone from borderline high into the high LDL range.
Higher LDL levels can raise heart disease risk
What Do LDL Cholesterol Numbers Mean?
Cholesterol tests will tell you your bad cholesterol levels. If you look at your blood tests, this is what your LDL level means.
|LDL Number (mg/dl)||Category|
|Less than 100||Optimal (great!!)|
|100-129||Almost optimal (should be lower)|
|130-159||Borderline high LDL|
|160-189||High LDL levels|
|190 and above||Very high LDL levels|
The higher the bad cholesterol level, the worse off you might be.
Interestingly, pterostilbene did not increase LDL levels when it was combined with grape seed extract. Grape seed extract is another type of antioxidant nutrient.
On the plus side, pterostilbene lowered both systolic and diastolic blood pressure by about 7 points each. But, does this reduction in blood pressure make up for the effect of raising of bad cholesterol levels?
This investigation was supported by a grant from ChromaDex corporation. Their flagship product is an anti-aging supplement called Niagen which contains a substance called nicotinamide riboside. See the Niagen review for more on that supplement.
- Group 1: 250 mg of nicotinamide riboside + 50 mg of pterostilbene
- Group 2: 500 mg of nicotinamide riboside + 100 mg of pterostilbene
- Group 3: Placebo group
The study lasted 8 weeks.
Results: Researchers noted the supplement raised bad cholesterol and total cholesterol levels, although this was said to be not clinically significant.
The lower dosage (50 mg) of Elysium raised bad cholesterol levels by 3% – 3.5%. The higher dosage (100 mg) was said to raise LDL levels even more.
Any Other Proof?
So far, two studies appear to show pterostilbene raises LDL levels (and maybe total cholesterol). In 2018, the bad cholesterol topic was addressed again in a Letter To the Editor of a clinical journal but this was a rehashing of the evidence summarized above.
One person has privately told me his LDL increased when he took a combination of 50 mg of pterostilbene and 250 mg of Niagen. His LDL levels were normal beforehand.
After he stopped taking the pterostilbene supplement, his LDL cholesterol levels returned to normal.
See the Elysium Basis Review for more on this combination of ingredients.
How Much Is Safe?
This nutrient is safe when consumed in the low amounts found in food. But are pterostilbene supplements safe? The plant nutrient seems to reduce blood pressure and may have other health properties, but would these effects outweigh the raising of bad cholesterol levels?
I'm not sure.
Research has noted as little as 50 mg of pterostilbene could raise bad cholesterol levels.
I think we need more research to know if supplements are safe for long term use.
Pterostilbene vs. Resveratrol
Pterostilbene is absorbed better than resveratrol. That's why companies are using it. The idea is it works better because we absorb it better. But, that's faulty logic in my opinion.
Better absorption doesn't necessarily mean it works better.
If you are on the fence about which supplement to take, you might be wise going with the supplement with more human research.
Or, avoid both supplements and just eat the foods containing these nutrients.
If you're looking for a research-based health supplement, I like Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract. This supplement has many human studies showing it is cardiovascular friendly, has antioxidant benefits and helps immune function to name a few. I take this stuff myself.
Does Pterostilbene Raise Bad Cholesterol?
I'd like to see a couple of other studies before passing judgment. Until more is known, pterostilbene may be something to consider avoiding if you have cholesterol problems. If you're going to take this supplement, it might be wise to get a cholesterol test first – and then check your cholesterol again after 6-8 weeks. If your bad cholesterol levels are going to increase, you should know by then.