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'Heart health through gut health': probiotics may help lower LDL cholesterol

By Maggie Hennessy , 13-Feb-2014
Last updated on 13-Feb-2014 at 15:02 GMT

"It's time to recognize probiotics' potential role as a simple and natural tool in cholesterol management," said Douglas B DiRienzo, lead author of a study linking probiotics to lower LDL cholesterol.

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is a leading cause of death worldwide, and elevated LDL cholesterol is a major risk factor. Although most consumers understand the importance of maintaining a healthy cholesterol level for a healthy heart, few associate gut health with heart health.

But according to the results of a recent review, consumption of certain probiotics may help lower LDL cholesterol and other risk factors for CHD.

The study, published in Nutrition Reviews, examined 26 clinical studies and two meta-analyses. Recommended dietary therapeutic lifestyle changes for targeting LDL cholesterol often include phytosterols/stanols and viscous soluble fibers, though recent evaluation of various probiotic strains show promise in reducing LDL cholesterol and other risk factors for CHD.

Of the probiotics examined in two multicenter clinical trials, L. reuteri NCIMB 30242 (branded Cardioviva), which is generally recognized as safe, was found to lower LDL cholesterol in hypercholesterolemic adults the most—between 8.9% and 11.6%, compared to a placebo. It also lowered total cholesterol and improved other risk factors for coronary heart disease, such as inflammatory biomarkers.

The probiotic E. faecium also reduced LDL cholesterol 5% compared to the placebo, though the FDA has raised concern about this strain, suggesting more research is needed.

"People know probiotics for digestive health. They don't associate them with heart health," said Doug DiRienzo, PhD and lead author of the review, in a statement. "It's time to recognize their potential role as a simple and natural tool in cholesterol management."

Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, RD, professor of nutrition at the Pennsylvania State University and fellow of the American Heart Association, echoed Dr. DiRienzo’s excitement of the potential of linking heart health to gut health, adding: "I would encourage consumers who are managing their heart health through diet and exercise to ask their health professionals about probiotics that have been proven effective in lowering cholesterol in clinical trials."

Source: Nutrition Reviews
DOI: 10.1111/nure.12084
“Effect of probiotics on biomarkers of cardiovascular disease: implications for heart-healthy diets”
Author: Douglas B DiRienzo

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