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Maca also contains phytosterols such as stigmasterol, beta-sitosterol, avenasterol, campesterol, and brassicasterol, which are structurally and biochemically related to cholesterol and steroid hormones such as estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone (1,2). Stigmasterol, beta-sitosterol, and campesterol account for 98% of all phytosterols found in plants (3). Among its health benefits in humans, phytosterols have hypocholesterolemic activity, act as an anti-diabetic, anticancer, and anti-inflammatory agent  (3,4). It has been suggested that these hormone-like compounds support endogenous hormone production appropriate to the age and gender of the person (5).


One analysis found that campesterol levels were highest in the hypocotyls grown in a terrain that had not been previously cultivated whereas beta-sitosterol concentrations were highest in the leaves. The color of the maca did not seem to impact the concentration of campesterol or beta-sitosterol (6), which aligns with the findings of another study indicating only minor variations in the amount of campesterol and beta-sitosterol in four colors of maca (yellow, red, violet, and black.)(7)


Harvest time and post-harvest drying appear to impact the beta-sitosterol content, with the highest concentrations in yellow maca 60 days before harvest and in red maca 30 days before harvest, while they were highest in black maca at the time of harvest. A significant loss of beta-sitosterol occurred in all three colors after traditional post-harvesting drying conditions (8).


Of three plant sterols measured in a gelatinized combination of maca color types known as Maca-GO®, beta-sitosterol was at the highest level, followed by campesterol and stigmasterol (5).


Author: Kim Ross DCN

Reviewer: Mona Fahoum, ND

Last Updated: March 12, 2024


1.Gonzales GF. Ethnobiology and ethnopharmacology of Lepidium meyenii (Maca), a plant from the peruvian highlands. Vol. 2012, Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2012.

2. Carvalho F V., Ribeiro PR. Structural diversity, biosynthetic aspects, and LC-HRMS data compilation for the identification of bioactive compounds of Lepidium meyenii. Vol. 125, Food Research International. 2019.

3. Miras-Moreno B, Sabater-Jara AB, Pedreno MA, Almagro L. Bioactivity of Phytosterols and Their Production in Plant in Vitro Cultures. Vol. 64, Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2016.

4. Trautwein EA, Vermeer MA, Hiemstra H, Ras RT. LDL-cholesterol lowering of plant sterols and stanols—which factors influence their efficacy? Vol. 10, Nutrients. 2018.

5. Meissner HO, Kapczynski W, Mscisz A, Lutomski J. Use of gelatinized maca (lepidium peruvianum) in early postmenopausal women. Int J Biomed Sci. 2005;

6. Clément C, Diazgrados DA, Avula B, Khan IA, Mayer AC, Aguirre DDP, et al. Influence of colour type and previous cultivation on secondary metabolites in hypocotyls and leaves of maca (Lepidium meyenii Walpers). J Sci Food Agric. 2010;90(5).

7. Avula B, Wang YH, Zhao J, Aguirre D, Manrique I, Clément C, et al. Separation and Determination of Macaene, Macamides and Phytosterols of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) Collected in Peru by LC-UV and LC-ELSD methods. Planta Med. 2008;74(03).

8. Yabar E. β-sitosterol content evolution in three maca (Lepidium meyenii Walp.) ecotypes during pre-harvest, harvest and natural post-harvest drying. Journal of Agro-Industry Sciences. 2019;1(1).

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