February is coming to a close, so let’s end Heart Health Month with something distinctly Humarian… probiotics! That’s right, probiotics are great for heart health, and if you read our blog on coronary artery disease, you know that as the leading cause of death worldwide, heart disease is a big deal. Many of these deaths could be prevented through better education and healthier lifestyle choices, like good nutrition, exercise, and probiotics. Here are just a few of the ways in which probiotics can help improve heart health.
Probiotics can lower bad cholesterol, blood pressure, and improve blood sugar
LDL cholesterol is bad cholesterol. It’s found in foods like red meat, cake, and fast foods. HDL cholesterol is known as the good cholesterol. It is found in foods like avocados, olive oil, and almonds. HDL cholesterol moves through the bloodstream and helps to remove some of the LDL cholesterol that can cause blockage. Nutrition goes a long way toward maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, but probiotics are another tool that can help to lower LDL cholesterol levels in the body.1 High LDL cholesterol leads to heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke by leading into atherosclerosis and major artery blockage. Every 1% reduction in serum cholesterol concentration is associated with an estimated 2% to 3% reduction in risk for coronary heart disease. This study shows that regular intake of L. acidophilus has the potential of reducing the risk for coronary heart disease by 6 to 10% by lowering serum cholesterol concentration.2 Other studies have shown that probiotics can help to reduce blood cholesterol levels in other ways that can help to reduce risk of heart disease.3
Probiotics can also help to reduce blood pressure levels and have been shown to improve blood sugar levels.4,5 Blood pressure is at the root of many different cardiovascular diseases. High blood sugar levels can lead to diabetes, heart attack, and stroke. By lowering blood pressure and improving blood glucose levels, probiotics reduce these associated risks.
Probiotics can reduce inflammation and reduce the risk of atherosclerosis
Inflammation is the source of many diseases in the body, and the heart is no exception. One of the main sources of inflammation in the body is in the gut, and probiotics help to combat this inflammation by improving digestion, improving immune functions, and reducing the numbers of bad bacteria that can cause inflammation. While it has not been proven that inflammation directly causes cardiovascular disease, we do know that chronic, low-grade inflammation is closely linked to all stages of atherosclerosis, which is a buildup of cholesterol-containing deposits (plaque) that narrow the pathways in the coronary arteries. Atherosclerosis underlies heart attack, stroke, and a coronary artery disease. Studies have shown that probiotic supplementation can protect against atherosclerosis through the inhibition of intestinal cholesterol absorption and by suppressing atherosclerotic plaque inflammation.6,7
The scientific studies linked in this article demonstrate a variety of ways in which probiotics have already been proven to help heart health. Every single one of these benefits can help to reduce the risk of heart disease, so don’t neglect the benefits that probiotics can provide both inside and outside your gut.
1Cho, Y. A., & Kim, J. (2015). Effect of Probiotics on Blood Lipid Concentrations: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Medicine, 94(43), e1714. https://doi.org/10.1097/MD.0000000000001714
2Anderson, J. W., & Gilliland, S. E. (1999). Effect of fermented milk (yogurt) containing Lactobacillus acidophilus L1 on serum cholesterol in hypercholesterolemic humans. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 18(1), 43–50. https://doi.org/10.1080/07315724.1999.10718826
3Saini, R., Saini, S., & Sharma, S. (2010). Potential of probiotics in controlling cardiovascular diseases. Journal of cardiovascular disease research, 1(4), 213–214. https://doi.org/10.4103/0975-3583.74267
4Upadrasta A, Sudha R. Probiotics and blood pressure: current insights. Integr Blood Press Control. 2016;9:33-42
5Hu, Y. M., Zhou, F., Yuan, Y., & Xu, Y. C. (2017). Effects of probiotics supplement in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: A meta-analysis of randomized trials. Efectos del suplemento de probióticos en pacientes con diabetes mellitus tipo 2: metaanálisis de ensayos aleatorizados. Medicina clinica, 148(8), 362–370. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.medcli.2016.11.036
6Huang, Y., Wang, J., Quan, G., Wang, X., Yang, L., & Zhong, L. (2014). Lactobacillus acidophilus ATCC 4356 prevents atherosclerosis via inhibition of intestinal cholesterol absorption in apolipoprotein E-knockout mice. Applied and environmental microbiology, 80(24), 7496–7504. https://doi.org/10.1128/AEM.02926-14
7Kim, J. Y., Kim, H., Jung, B. J., Kim, N. R., Park, J. E., & Chung, D. K. (2013). Lipoteichoic acid isolated from Lactobacillus plantarum suppresses LPS-mediated atherosclerotic plaque inflammation. Molecules and cells, 35(2), 115–124. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10059-013-2190-3
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