Alan McStravick for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
As someone who has been taking a daily regimen of probiotics for some time now, a recent study was of particular interest to me. Probiotics, for those of you who don´t already know, are live microorganisms that are found to benefit the microbiome in your stomach and intestinal tract. They are believed to have a beneficial effect on your digestive system and can usually be ingested by enjoying a delicious yogurt or by taking a probiotic supplement.
A new study out, and presented at this year´s American Heart Association Scientific Sessions, is claiming that with just two daily doses of a new strain of probiotic, one could see a significant decrease in key cholesterol-bearing molecules in the blood as well as “bad” and total cholesterol levels.
This builds on findings from previous studies that showed a formulation of the bacteria, known as Lactobacillus reuteri, had also lowered blood levels of LDL, which is the cholesterol your doctor may usually refer to as the bad kind.
The medical community has been taking more interest in these supplemental treatments lately, even while researchers are still trying to get a fuller understanding of how probiotics will affect general health and aid in treatment of such chronic ailments, such as heart disease, according to lead author of the study and research assistant in the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University, Mitchell L. Jones, M.D., Ph.D.
Researchers for the study wanted to determine whether this same probiotic strain could, in fact, lower the LDL and reduce blood levels of cholesterol esters. Cholesterol esters are molecules of cholesterol that are attached to fatty acids. This combination accounts for most of the total amount of blood cholesterol and has been shown to be a primary factor tied to cardiovascular disease risk.
By tracking the cholesterol esters which were bound to saturated fat, researchers were hoping to see a reduction in dangerous arterial plaque buildup. This buildup occurs at significantly higher levels in coronary artery disease patients.
The study tracked 127 adult patients who presented with high cholesterol. While half of the patients took the new strain of probiotic, L. reuteri two times daily, the remainder were given placebo capsules.
What the researchers found was that the group that took the probiotic had LDL levels 11.6 percent lower than the group that was taking the placebo after only 9 weeks. Additionally, compared to the placebo group, cholesterol esters were reduced by 6.3 percent and cholesterol ester saturated fatty acids were reduced by 8.8 percent.
The team was excited that the research showed how this new probiotic formulation could reduce cholesterol esters “and in particular reduce cholesterol esters associated with ℠bad´ saturated fatty acids in the blood,” said Jones, co-founder and chief science officer at Micropharma, the company that formulated the probiotic.
Also of note from the research was how the group taking the probiotic therapy saw at total cholesterol reduction of 9.1 percent. The “good” cholesterol, HDL, and blood triglycerides, also a dangerous form of fat in the blood, were unchanged however.
The scientists have proposed that the Lactobacillus bacteria alone may have a direct impact on cholesterol levels in several ways, including breaking apart molecules that are known as bile salts. This new strain of probiotic was fermented and formulated to optimize its effect on both cholesterol and bile salts.
The team believes the correlations between LDL reduction and bile measurements in the gut show that the study results suggest the probiotic broke up the bile salts which led to reduced overall cholesterol absorption in the gut and less LDL.
The test group that received the probiotic therapy was given doses of just 200 milligrams each day. This is a far lower amount than those necessary for the use of soluble fiber or other natural products that are used for cholesterol reduction.
“Most dietary cholesterol management products require consumption between 2 to 25 grams a day,” Jones said.
Patients appear to tolerate the probiotic well and the probiotic strain L. reuteri has a long history of safe use, he said.
Though the results are promising, the researchers recognize the study´s test group was too small to be an adequate marker. The researchers are not sure if the impact of the probiotic differs between men and women or among differing ethnic groups.
Co-authors are Christopher J. Martoni, Ph.D. and Satya Prakash, Ph.D.
Micropharma funded the study and owns intellectual property rights for the formulation, which is expected to be on the U.S. market next year.