This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.
Evidence has emerged that suggests a type of probiotic may be useful as a natural means of managing high cholesterol. Scientists have found that two doses a day of Lactobacillus reuteri, a fairly new probiotic strain naturally found in breast milk, may significantly decrease important cholesterol-bearing particles in the blood, along with “bad” and total cholesterol blood levels.
For some time it has been known that probiotics, live microorganisms present in yogurt, buttermilk and supplements, are beneficial to the functioning of the intestinal tract. Now, the findings from the new study augment a growing body of research that indicate this “friendly” bacteria plays a role in overall health, in addition to supporting digestion. While research hints that probiotics may be beneficial for other medical conditions, the present study focused solely on their value in reducing the cardiovascular disease risk factor of high cholesterol.
Experiment Yields Promising Results
This recent study’s discovery builds on prior research that revealed the probiotic formulation reduced blood levels of LDL, otherwise known as bad cholesterol. The goal of the scientists was to ascertain if this same strain of bacteria could also lower blood levels of cholesterol esters, which are molecules of cholesterol joined to fatty acids. These cholesterol esters were of interest because they are responsible for a major part of total blood cholesterol, a key factor involved in cardiovascular disease risk. The primary intent and hope of the research team was to determine that this probiotic could reduce the buildup of arterial plaque, a substance that can be perilously obstructive to the blood flow to the heart.
Of a group of 127 adults with high cholesterol, half were given supplements of the new probiotic strain L. reuteri, while the other half were given a placebo. After nine weeks, the LDL levels of the probiotic group were 11.6 percent lower than that of the placebo group. Other benefits included a 6.3 percent reduction in cholesterol esters, an 8.8 percent reduction in cholesterol ester saturated fatty acids and a 9.1 percent reduction in total cholesterol.
The researchers were excited about the results, especially those showing an impact of the new probiotic formulation on key factors associated with bad cholesterol, says lead author, Mitchell L. Jones, M.D., Ph.D. They believe the property of the probiotic responsible for the positive findings was its ability to break up bile salts, which causes less cholesterol to be absorbed in the intestinal tract.
An aspect of the study that particularly pleased the authors was that the dose of probiotics used was only 200 milligrams per day, an amount far lower than other natural dietary products used to reduce cholesterol, such as soluble fiber.
The new study was presented at this year’s American Heart Association Scientific Sessions. Although the results were promising, more research is needed using a much larger test group.