The association between fermented milks and cholesterol-lowering has been suggested for decades. But until recently, there have not been many convincing randomized, controlled trials that document specific probiotic-induced improvements in blood lipids. A recent study suggests that certain probiotics might improve blood lipid profiles. Jones et al. 2012 tested the effect of feeding hypercholesterolemic adults yogurt containing microencapsulated Lactobacillus reuteri NCIMB 30242. A total of 114 subjects, divided between probiotic and placebo group, participated in this study. After a 6 week intervention period, significant reductions in LDL-cholesterol (8.92%) and total cholesterol (4.81%) were attained compared to placebo. Results of this magnitude are meaningful and appropriate for a functional food. Recently, a second randomized, controlled trial by this same group was published, with similar results (Jones et al., 2012).
Results from these studies dovetail with recent suggestions of a role for the microbiota in metabolic syndrome. Obesity and diabetes are characterized by altered gut microbiota; furthermore, altered gut microbiota can be reversed by dieting and related weight loss (reviewed in Delzenne et al. 2011). Surely the relationship is a complex one, involving host, microbial and environmental factors. But understanding the role of microbes – both ones we harbor and ones we consume – in metabolic syndrome may provide an unexpected approach to managing this important health concern.
A recent review article (Kumar et al. 2012) summarizes the current state of the science on cholesterol-lowering probiotics.
Delzenne NM, Neyrinck AM, Cani PD. Modulation of the gut microbiota by nutrients with prebiotic properties: consequences for host health in the context of obesity and metabolic syndrome. Microb Cell Fact. 10 Suppl 1:S10.
Jones ML, Martoni CJ, Parent M, Prakash S. 2012. Cholesterol-lowering efficacy of a microencapsulated bile salt hydrolase-active Lactobacillus reuteri NCIMB 30242 yoghurt formulation in hypercholesterolaemic adults. British Journal of Nutrition 107, 1505–1513.
Jones ML, Martoni CJ, Prakash S. 2012.Cholesterol lowering and inhibition of sterol absorption by Lactobacillus reuteri NCIMB 30242: a randomized controlled trial. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2012 Sep 19. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2012.126. [Epub ahead of print]
Kumar M, Nagpal R, Kumar R, Hemalatha R, Verma V, Kumar A, Chakraborty C, Singh B, Marotta F, Jain S, Yadav H.et al. 2012. Cholesterol-Lowering Probiotics as Potential Biotherapeutics for Metabolic Diseases. Exp Diabetes Res. 2012:902917.