Probiotics For High Cholesterol

Woman eating probiotic yogurt
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Probiotics are live microorganisms found naturally in the human body. Said to fight high cholesterol, these "beneficial bacteria" are also available in many foods and sold in dietary supplement form. Proponents suggest that taking probiotic supplements can keep your cholesterol in check and help shield you from heart disease.

Types of probiotic bacteria commonly used to curb cholesterol include lactobacillus (such as Lactobacillus gasseri) and bifidobacteria.

Why Are Probiotics Sometimes Used for High Cholesterol?

Although little is known about how or why probiotics might help protect against high cholesterol, some research suggests that certain types of probiotic bacteria may inhibit absorption of cholesterol in the intestine.

Indeed, findings from preliminary studies indicate that some species of Lactobacillus bacteria may promote the breakdown of substances called bile salts. Since the breakdown of bile salts may help reduce the gut's absorption of cholesterol, it's thought that intake of probiotics may help lower your blood levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol.

Research on Probiotics for Cholesterol

To date, much of the evidence for the potentially cholesterol-lowering effects of probiotics comes from preliminary research in animals. However, several small clinical trials suggest that probiotics may aid in cholesterol management.

These clinical trials include a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2012, for which 127 adults with high cholesterol were given either a placebo or supplements containing the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri.

After nine weeks, those given the probiotic supplements showed a greater reduction in total cholesterol levels and LDL cholesterol levels (compared to those given the placebo).

In addition, a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2013 found that the probiotic Lactobacillus plantarum may help lower cholesterol levels.

Compared to study members given a placebo for 12 weeks, participants who took supplements containing three strains of Lactobacillus plantarum for the same time period experienced a significantly greater decrease in total cholesterol levels. The trial included a total of 60 volunteers, all of whom had high cholesterol levels at the start of the study.


Probiotics may trigger mild side effects, including intestinal gas and bloating.

It's important to note that probiotic supplements should not be used in place of physician-prescribed treatment for elevated cholesterol levels. When left untreated, high cholesterol can lead to atherosclerosis and raise your risk of major cardiac events like heart attack and stroke.

Alternatives to Probiotics for Cholesterol Management

A number of lifestyle practices are essential for keeping your cholesterol in check. For example, it's crucial to eat healthily; maintain a healthy weight; get at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week; avoid smoking; and have your cholesterol levels measured regularly.

Natural remedies like green tea, soy, garlic, and artichoke may also help improve your cholesterol levels. Found in foods like almonds, wheat germ, wheat bran, and certain vegetable oils, plant sterols may help cut cholesterol levels as well.

Beyond Cholesterol: More Uses for Probiotics

Said to stimulate the immune system, increased intake of probiotics may enhance your health in a variety of ways. You can boost your intake of probiotics by consuming foods like kefir, yogurt, miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, and kim chi (as well as by using dietary supplements).

Apart from possibly aiding in cholesterol control, probiotic supplements may also help to fight diarrhea, ease eczema symptoms, and alleviate irritable bowel syndrome.


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Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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