Cholesterol is a type of fat molecule. It is natural synthesised within our cells and is an essential component of our cell membranes. Cholesterol is essential for life, but too much of it can be very damaging to health as it can seriously increase your chances of developing potentially life threatening arterial disease.
Cholesterol is transported around the body in the blood, packaged in lipoproteins. If the levels of cholesterol are too high these molecules can stick to arterial walls and build up, reducing blood flow through the artery. This restricts the flow of blood to essential organs such as the brain and heart as well as increasing blood pressure and the risk of blood clots - greatly increasing the chances of stroke or heart attack.
Increased cholesterol levels can be caused by lifestyle choices, such as poor diet (high in saturated fats) and smoking. Underlying health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease, liver disease and hypothyroidism can also lead to high cholesterol.
Lactobacillus is a type of beneficial or ‘friendly’ bacteria which, due to its ability to survive and flourish in the human gastrointestinal tract, can be used in probiotics. Different strains of Lactobacillus have been shown to have various health benefits, including reducing the symptoms of IBS, reducing food allerginicities, and accelerating gut repair after illness. There is growing evidence and scientific consensus that Lactobacillus can also help to reduce cholesterol.
Probiotics are thought to reduce cholesterol through several different mechanisms, including:
Strains of Lactobacillus Plantarum, Lactobacillus Acidophilus and Lactobacillus Rhamnosus have been shown to reduce cholesterol in vitro (in the lab). In a 2014 study (Tomaro-Duchesnaeu et al, 2014) these three types of Lactobacillus were shown to assimilate around 30% of cholesterol when used in high doses in vitro.
A 1999 study (Anderson & Gilliland, 1999) suggested that cholesterol reducing properties of Lactobacillus could reduce the risks of coronary heart disease by up to 10% in humans.
More research is need to fully understand the exact mechanisms of how probiotics such as Lactobacillus reduce cholesterol but the growing evidence suggests that these friendly bacteria could play a vital role in reducing arterial disease, which could save countless lives.
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Frias, J et al., Immunoreactivity and Amino Acid Content of Fermented Soybean Products. J. Agric. Food Chem., 2008, 56 (1): 99-104
Gilliland, SE, Nelson CR, and Maxwell C. Assimilation of cholesterol by Lactobacillus acidophilus. Appl Environ Microbiol. 1985 Feb; 49(2): 377 - 381.
Jeun J at al, Hypocholesterolemic effects of Lactobacillus plantarum KCTC3928 by increased bile acid excretion in C57BL/6 mice. Nutrition. 2010 Mar;26(3):321-30.Xie, N et al. Effects of two Lactobacillus strains on lipid metabolism and intestinal microflora in rats fed a high-cholesterol diet. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2011 Jul 3;11:53..
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