Fermented dairy products such as yoghurt, which contain multiple strains of good bacteria, can help lower cholesterol, [Photo: Bigstock]

Probiotics can help lower cholesterol

4 January, 2016

Natural Health News – A recently published analysis suggests that probiotics in the diet can help lower cholesterol levels and reduce other risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Cardiovascular disease can be caused by several things including hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol or already established disease diseases that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels. If the vessels supplying the heart with blood are obstructed, it can lead to heart attack; blocked vessels supplying the brain can lead to stroke.

According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death globally: more people die annually from CVDs than from any other cause.

What you need to know

» High cholesterol levels are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease – the number one cause of premature death globally.

» Previous research has indicated that probiotics may have a role to play in helping to reduce high cholesterol.

» This new analysis pooled the results of several studies and found that yoghurt products, enriched with multiple strains of probiotics, had positive effects on total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

In this meta-analysis, published in the Annals of Medicine, researchers pooled together the results of 15 studies (with a total of 788 people). They concluded that probiotics had positive effects on total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or ‘bad’ cholesterol), body mass index, waist circumference and inflammatory markers.

While adding probiotics in whatever form appeared to be useful, the researchers found significant effects on total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol when the probiotics were consumed as part of fermented milk or yoghurt compared to capsule form, when the probiotics were consumed for at least eight weeks and when multiple strains of probiotic were ingested (as opposed to just a single strain).

They conclude that probiotic supplementation is “effective in lowering the lipid level and coexisting factors associated with cardiovascular disease.”

Previous research shows benefits

Although this was a relatively small analysis it is not the first to show that probiotics can help keep cholesterol levels in check.

In 2000 another meta-analysis in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that fermented dairy milk products, which contain lactic acid bacteria were effective, over the short term, in reducing cholesterol levels. The authors speculate this is because the good bacteria help

Another analysis that included five double-blind trials examined the short-term (2–8 weeks) effects of a yoghurt with different probiotic strains on serum cholesterol levels found a 4% decrease in total cholesterol and 5% decrease in serum LDL concentration.

A trial where women were given live yoghurt (300 g daily,  3.5% fat) containing with 4 different live cultures found that the yoghurt consumption increased serum HDL (‘good’ cholesterol) levels leading to a better ratio of ‘good’ to ‘bad’  cholesterol.

There is also evidence that probiotics may have a beneficial effect on hypertension – which can be caused by high cholesterol – as well.