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Can Probiotics Improve Cardiovascular Health?

Written by Biljana Novkovic, PhD | Last updated:
Jonathan Ritter
Puya Yazdi
Medically reviewed by
Jonathan Ritter, PharmD, PhD (Pharmacology), Puya Yazdi, MD | Written by Biljana Novkovic, PhD | Last updated:

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Some probiotics may produce beneficial changes to blood pressure and cholesterol, ultimately improving heart health. Which strains are the best, and what specific changes can they make? Read on to learn more.

Probiotics & the Heart

High cholesterol and blood pressure are among the most important risk factors for cardiovascular disease, and certain probiotics have produced beneficial changes to both in clinical trials. In this post, we’ll explore the potential effect of probiotic supplements on cardiovascular disease.

Remember that probiotics may not be for everyone, and they should never be used in place of something your doctor recommends. Talk to your doctor to determine whether probiotic supplements could be right for you.

Possibly Effective For

1) Cardiovascular Disease

According to some researchers, probiotics and prebiotics may help prevent and reduce the severity of cardiovascular disease due to a reduction in total serum cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL-cholesterol), and inflammation [1].

Daily supplementation with S. boulardii lowered remnant lipoprotein in hypercholesterolemic adults, a predictive biomarker and potential therapeutic target in the treatment and prevention of coronary artery disease [2].

In a human trial, L. casei improved insulin sensitivity, an important risk factor for cardiovascular morbidity, especially stroke and coronary heart disease and mortality [3].

L. acidophilus consumption led to a 2.4% to 3.2% reduction in blood cholesterol in clinical studies. Since every 1% reduction in serum cholesterol concentration is associated with an estimated 2% to 3% reduction in risk for coronary heart disease, some researchers believe that regular intake of L. acidophilus has the potential to reduce the risk for coronary heart disease by 6 to 10% [4].

L. acidophilus may protect against atherosclerosis through the inhibition of intestinal cholesterol absorption in mice fed a Western diet [5].

Lipoteichoic acid (LTA) from L. plantarum inhibited the production of proinflammatory cytokines and suppressed atherosclerotic plaque inflammation in mice [6].

L. acidophilus reduced cholesterol and inhibited the accumulation of lipoprotein in atherosclerotic plaques in mice [7].

L. acidophilus attenuated the development of atherosclerotic lesions in mice, possibly by reducing oxidative stress and inflammatory responses [8].

Probiotics, especially Lactobacillus, reduced markers of cardiovascular disease like cholesterol and atherosclerotic development in animals and humans.

2) Bad Cholesterol

Daily consumption of yogurt containing L. acidophilus after each dinner contributes to a significant reduction in cholesterol [1]. However, in another study of men and women with normal to borderline high cholesterol, L. acidophilus did not lower blood cholesterol [9].

A synbiotic product containing L. gasseri and inulin reduced total blood cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL)-cholesterol and triglycerides in hypercholesterolemic men and women [10].

Buffalo milk yogurt and soymilk yogurt with B. longum decreased total cholesterol by 50%, LDL- cholesterol by 56%, and triglycerides by 51% [1].

In one study, L. reuteri reduced LDL cholesterol by 11.64%, reduced total cholesterol by 9.14%, non-HDL-cholesterol by 11.30% and apoB-100 by 8.41% [11]. In another study, L. reuteri reduced LDL by 8.92% and total cholesterol by 4.81% [12].

6-week supplementation of L. salivarius along with fructooligosaccharide (FOS) significantly reduced total cholesterol, “bad” (LDL) cholesterol, and triglycerides [13].

B. longum reduced total cholesterol, particularly among subjects with moderate hypercholesterolemia [14].

L. fermentum modestly improved cholesterol levels in a clinical study [15].

A synbiotic containing B. coagulans reduced TAG and VLDL in pregnant women [16], and reduced total blood cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol in a small clinical trial [17, 18].

In another study, a combination of bacteria strains more effectively reduced total cholesterol and liver cholesterol compared to individual bacteria strains [1].

B. animalis, B. bifidum, and B. longum reduced total cholesterol and LDL-C in children with primary dyslipidemia [19].

Milk fermented with L. acidophilus and B. longum significantly reduced LDL cholesterol in hypercholesterolemic women [20].

In overweight subjects, the administration of capsules with Bifidobacteria, Lactobacilli, and S. thermophilus significantly improved lipid profiles, reducing total cholesterol (TC), triacylglycerols (TAG), and LDL-C levels [3].

Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium probiotics strongly reduced LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and total cholesterol in multiple clinical trials of children and adults.

3) Good Cholesterol

According to some researchers, probiotics may increase high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (HDL-C) [21].

In T2DM patients, L. acidophilus and B. animalis increased good cholesterol (HDL-C) levels [3].

A synbiotic containing L. acidophilus, L. casei, B. bifidum, and inulin increased HDL-cholesterol in diabetic subjects [22].

A synbiotic shake containing L. acidophilus, B. bifidum and fructo-oligosaccharides significantly increased HDL-C in elderly people with diabetes [3].

6-week supplementation of L. salivarius along with fructooligosaccharide (FOS) significantly increased “good” (HDL) cholesterol in healthy young volunteers [13].

In overweight subjects, Bifidobacteria, Lactobacilli, and S. thermophilus significantly improved HDL-C [3].

B. coagulans increased good cholesterol in diabetic patients [3].

L. plantarum increased “good” (HDL) cholesterol in mice [23].

B. bifidum increased HDL in diabetic rats [24].

In addition to decreasing bad LDL cholesterol, probiotics increased good HDL cholesterol in healthy people and in patients with diabetes.

4) Blood Pressure

L. helveticus produces angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE)-inhibitory peptides that could potentially prevent or control high blood pressure [25].

L. helveticus fermented milk lowered blood pressure in hypertensive subjects [26, 27].

Daily ingestion of the tablets containing powdered fermented milk with L. helveticus in subjects with high-normal blood pressure or mild hypertension reduced elevated blood pressure without any adverse effects [28].

Long-term treatment with L. helveticus-fermented milk reduced arterial stiffness in hypertensive subjects [29].

L. plantarum reduced blood pressure in Russian adults with obesity [3].

L. faecium and S. thermophilus reduced systolic blood pressure in overweight and obese subjects [3].

L. plantarum [30, 31], L. johnsonii [32] and L. lactis [33, 34] acted as a blood pressure-lowering agent in rats.

Certain probiotics and fermented products reduced blood pressure in people with mild hypertension and high-normal blood pressure. L. helveticus in particular produces ACE-inhibitory peptides that could explain this effect.

Takeaway

Probiotic bacteria, and especially Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species, have produced positive changes to cardiovascular health in clinical trials. In particular, these probiotics reduced LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure and increased HDL cholesterol. In animals, they also prevented atherosclerotic buildup.

Further Reading

We’ve compiled deep dives into each potential benefit of probiotics. Check them out here:

About the Author

Biljana Novkovic

Biljana Novkovic

PhD
Biljana received her PhD from Hokkaido University.
Before joining SelfHacked, she was a research scientist with extensive field and laboratory experience. She spent 4 years reviewing the scientific literature on supplements, lab tests and other areas of health sciences. She is passionate about releasing the most accurate science and health information available on topics, and she's meticulous when writing and reviewing articles to make sure the science is sound. She believes that SelfHacked has the best science that is also layperson-friendly on the web.

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