The gut microbe L. plantarum is a promising probiotic for diarrhea, high cholesterol, and atopic dermatitis. How does it work, and what other benefits might it have? Learn more here.
Lactobacillus plantarum is a widespread species of lactic acid bacteria. It is commonly found in many fermented plant products such as sauerkraut, pickles, brined olives, and Korean kimchi.
L. plantarum is an antioxidant with anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antiobesity and antidiabetic properties .
L. plantarum can increase iron absorption from a fruit drink in healthy women by approximately 50% .
L. plantarum can increase iron absorption from an oat base in women by over 100% .
L. plantarum probiotic supplements have not been approved by the FDA for medical use and may lack solid clinical research. Regulations set manufacturing standards for them but don’t guarantee that they’re safe or effective. To prevent rare side effects, speak with your doctor before using probiotics.
In a clinical trial of 438 children with antibiotic-associated diarrhea, L. plantarum probiotics reduced the incidence of loose or watery stools and abdominal pain, without producing adverse side effects .
In clinical trials, L. plantarum significantly increased the skin water content in the face and hands. Volunteers in the probiotic group had a significant reduction in wrinkle depth at week 12, and skin gloss was also significantly improved by week 12. Skin elasticity in the probiotic group improved by 13.17% after 4 weeks and by 21.73% after 12 weeks .
Daily intake of citrus juice containing heat-killed L. plantarum alleviates symptoms of atopic dermatitis in humans .
L. plantarum isolated from Kimchi improves mouse atopic dermatitis .
Lactobacillus probiotics have shown promise in reducing the symptoms of ulcerative colitis in multiple clinical trials. A synbiotic blend containing L. plantarum in particular significantly improved UC symptoms in 73 patients after 8 weeks [16, 17].
Lactobacillus probiotics have reduced cholesterol in a number of clinical trials. In a study of 60 volunteers with high cholesterol, a probiotic containing L. plantarum reduced total cholesterol by 13.6% after 12 weeks .
Double-coated L. plantarum lowers cholesterol levels in mice on a high-fat diet .
Researchers are currently investigating whether L. plantarum has other health benefits. The potential benefits in this section have produced positive results in at least one clinical trial, but these studies are small, contradictory, or otherwise limited. Talk to your doctor before supplementing with L. plantarum for any reason.
L. plantarum also protected mice from diet-induced obesity. This bacterium lowers body weight, fat mass, fasting blood glucose, serum insulin, and leptin levels and pro-inflammatory markers in obese mice [23, 24, 25].
L. plantarum fermented barley reversed glucose intolerance, ameliorated elevated insulin, decreased levels of triglycerides and total cholesterol in rats on a high-fat diet .
L. plantarum improved the hepatic and urinary functions of obese rats by inducing decreases in alanine aminotransferase (ALT), gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT), plasmatic triglycerides, total cholesterol concentrations, creatinine, urea, and body weight .
L. plantarum reduced glucose levels in postmenopausal women .
Soy milk containing L. plantarum had antioxidant properties and decreased DNA damage among patients with type 2 diabetes .
L. plantarum decreased food intake, blood glucose level, glycosylated hemoglobin level and leptin levels in mice. This bacterium also favorably regulated insulin level and increased “good” (HDL) cholesterol .
L. plantarum caused a significant reduction of blood glucose levels in response to insulin in mice on a high-fat diet .
Treatment with L. plantarum favorably regulates blood glucose, hormones, and lipid metabolism in the diabetic rats .
L. plantarum significantly improved immunological parameters and protected the pancreatic tissues in rats with diabetes. Furthermore, this probiotic treatment markedly reduced pancreatic and plasmatic lipase activities and serum triglyceride and LDL-cholesterol rates and increased the level of HDL-Cholesterol. It also exerted efficient protective effects on the liver and kidney functions .
In a small clinical study of 34 people with leg ulcers, topical application of L. plantarum reduced infected chronic venous ulcer wound bacterial load, neutrophils, apoptotic and necrotic cells, and induced wound healing in both diabetic and non-diabetic patients .
Heat-killed L. plantarum decreased the depth of periodontal pockets in patients undergoing supportive periodontal therapy .
In a clinical study of 171 adults, L. plantarum improved immune activity and decreased stress markers .
Even heat-killed L. plantarum activated innate and acquired immunity in humans .
L. plantarum enhanced immunity in the small intestine of immunosuppressed mice .
In mice infected with herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), oral administration of L. plantarum significantly delayed the development of skin lesions in the early phase of infection and reduced the amount of virus in the brain .
Also in mice, L. plantarum isolated from the fermented Korean cabbage conferred 100% protection against lethal infection with influenza A viruses, prevented significant weight loss and lowered lung viral loads .
In a clinical study of 42 adults, citrus juice fermented by L. plantarum improved the symptoms of Japanese cedar pollinosis .
In a cell study, L. plantarum reduced the allergenicity of soy flour .
Oral administration of L. plantarum alleviated airway hyperresponsiveness and allergic responses in mice .
In patients with vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC), L. plantarum reduced vaginal discomfort after conventional treatment and improved vaginal bacteria content and vaginal pH value .
In a clinical trial, L. plantarum use was associated with a three-fold reduced risk of recurrence of vulvovaginal candidiasis .
L. plantarum also kills Candida in the laboratory .
No clinical evidence supports the use of L. plantarum for any of the conditions listed in this section. Below is a summary of the existing animal and cell-based research, which should guide further investigational efforts. However, the studies listed below should not be interpreted as supportive of any health benefit.
Treatment with L. plantarum alleviates copper toxicity, by increasing copper excretion and reducing the accumulation of copper in tissues. L. plantarum also reversed oxidative stress induced by copper exposure, recovered the ALT and AST blood levels and improved the spatial memory of mice .
L. plantarum fermented soymilk extract improves learning and memory in rats with vascular dementia, by acting as a blood pressure-lowering and neuroprotective agent .
Chronic ingestion of L. plantarum increased locomotor activity, dopamine, and serotonin levels while reducing anxiety-like behaviors in mice. It also reduced depression-like behaviors, and inflammatory cytokine levels, and increased anti-inflammatory cytokine levels in the serum of mice subjected to early life stress [48, 49].
L. plantarum fermented soymilk extract acts as a blood pressure-lowering agent in rats .
Lipoteichoic acid (LTA) from L. plantarum inhibits the production of proinflammatory cytokines and suppresses atherosclerotic plaque inflammation in mice .
Treatment of obstructive jaundice in rats with L. plantarum returned active liver barrier function .
L. plantarum protects against oxidative stress and inflammatory injury of the liver in mice .
L. plantarum alleviated liver damage in hyperlipidemic mice .
Supplementation with L. plantarum for 5 weeks restored liver function in rats with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and decreased the levels of fat accumulation in the liver. In addition, the bacterium significantly reduced proinflammatory cytokines .
L. plantarum reduces inflammation in intestinal epithelial cells .
Intake of L. plantarum can counteract unwanted bacteria in the intestine .
L. plantarum enhanced gastrointestinal transit in mice with loperamide-induced constipation .
L. plantarum delays the colonization of H. pylori in rat stomachs attenuates gastric inflammation and ameliorates gastric histopathology .
L. plantarum strain maintained the growth of infant mice during chronic undernutrition .
L. plantarum significantly decreased body weight and increased relative muscle weight, grip strength and endurance swimming time in mice .
L. plantarum ameliorated inflammation-induced infertility in mice .
L. plantarum reinforced natural microflora and lead to a resurge of fertility in mice infected with E. coli .
L. plantarum enhanced the anti-tumor immune response and delayed tumor formation in mice with intestinal adenocarcinoma .
L. plantarum inhibited the development of rat colon carcinogenesis .
Nano-sized L. plantarum also exhibited anti-colorectal cancer activities in mice .
L. plantarum significantly inhibited the proliferation of hepatocellular carcinoma cells, gastric cancer cells and colorectal adenocarcinoma cells .
These effects have not yet been investigated in human subjects.
- Decreases the production of proinflammatory cytokines (IL-6, IL-8, and MCP-1) 
- Increases the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines (IL-10) 
- Decreases ALT and AST 
- Decreases NF-κB 
No adverse effects of any kind were observed in rats, even after consuming large quantities . However, as with other probiotics, use in patients with organ failure, immunocompromised status, and dysfunctional gut barrier mechanisms can lead to infections. In order to avoid adverse events, talk to your doctor before using probiotics.