Probiotics were found to reduce blood levels of cholesterol esters - molecules of cholesterol attached to fatty acids
Yoghurt fans have yet another reason to tuck in to a pot - the dairy snack is good for the heart.
Researchers found two daily doses of a probiotic lowered key cholesterol-bearing molecules in the blood as well as "bad" and total cholesterol.
Probiotics are live micro-organisms - naturally occurring bacteria in the gut - thought to have beneficial effects. Common sources are yoghurt or dietary supplements.
In previous studies, a formulation of the bacteria, known as Lactobacillus reuteri NCIMB 30242, has lowered blood levels of LDL or "bad" cholesterol.
Study lead author Doctor Mitchell Jones, from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, said researchers are increasingly looking at the role probiotics can play a in treating chronic diseases such as heart disease.
The researchers investigated whether the same probiotic could lower LDL and reduce blood levels of cholesterol esters - molecules of cholesterol attached to fatty acids. This combination accounts for most total blood cholesterol and has been tied to cardiovascular disease risk.
They tracked cholesterol esters bound to saturated fat, which have been linked to dangerous arterial plaque build-up and occur at higher levels in coronary artery disease patients.
The study involved 127 adults with high cholesterol. About half the participants took L. reuteri NCIMB 30242 twice a day, while the rest were given placebo capsules.
Those taking the probiotic had LDL levels 11.6 per cent lower than those on placebo after nine weeks. Cholesterol esters were also reduced by 6.3 per cent and cholesterol ester saturated fatty acids by 8.8 per cent, compared with the placebo group.
Dr Jones said for the first time the research shows that the probiotic formulation can reduce cholesterol esters 'and in particular reduce the cholesterol esters associated with 'bad' saturated fatty acids in the blood.'
And people taking the probiotic had total cholesterol reduced by 9.1 per cent. HDL 'good' cholesterol and blood triglycerides, a dangerous form of fat in the blood, were unchanged.
Scientists have proposed that Lactobacillus bacteria alone may impact cholesterol levels in several ways, including breaking apart molecules known as bile salts. L. reuteri NCIMB 30242 was fermented and formulated to optimisze its effect on cholesterol and bile salts.
Based on correlations between LDL reduction and bile measurements in the gut, the study results suggest the probiotic broke up bile salts, leading to reduced cholesterol absorption in the gut and less LDL.
The probiotic worked at doses of just 200 milligrams a day, far lower than those for soluble fibre or other natural products used to reduce cholesterol.
Dr Jones, co-founder and chief science officer of Micropharma - the company that formulated the probiotic, added: 'Most dietary cholesterol management products require consumption between two to 25 grams a day.'
He said patients appear to tolerate the probiotic well and the probiotic strain L. reuteri has a long history of safe use.
Because of the small number of patients involved in the study, researchers aren't sure if the impact of the probiotic differs between men and women or among ethnic groups.
The findings were presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2228228/Good-news-yoghurt-fans--probiotics-lower-bad-cholesterol.html#ixzz2BNZG6dGq
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