My patients are always asking me how they can lower cholesterol naturally, without taking statins. Finally, there is something that can help: probiotics.
The probiotic most tested for this purpose belongs to the Lactobacillus family, which is the largest and best known of the helpful bacteria.
For lowering cholesterol levels, research is focusing on a bacterium called L. reuteri.
L. reuteri occurs naturally in both birds and mammals, including humans. But some people don’t have enough of it, and therefore need daily supplements to help fight infections and maintain a healthy immune system.
One of the first indications that L. reuteri could have powerful cholesterol-lowering benefits came when Argentine researchers performed an experiment using mice.
After just seven days of feeding the mice a diet supplemented with the bacteria, the mice’s total cholesterol levels fell an average of 38 percent.
In addition, the animals’ triglycerides decreased 40 percent and there was a 20 percent reduction in harmful LDL cholesterol.
Other mouse and pig studies have uncovered significant benefits as well.
But it’s not just animal studies; probiotics are proving beneficial in studies done using humans as well.
In 2012, Canadian researchers published a study that involved a group of 114 participants, some of whom were given yogurt with L. reuteri, while others ate yogurt without the bacteria.
Those who consumed the probiotic-laced yogurt experienced an average 12 percent drop in their LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) while their good HDL cholesterol remained the same, improving their overall lipid ratio profile.
Even more impressive, those who ate the yogurt with L. reuteri reduced their levels of cholesteryl esters, which are found within blood fat and lead to the formation of a particularly deadly type of plaque.
The researchers said theirs was the first study that showed a probiotic could have such an important impact.
This research demonstrated that L. reuteri helped cut cholesterol in three ways. It reduced the amount of cholesterol in the liver, where it is manufactured.
In addition, the probiotic acted to break down the liver bile acids, forcing the liver to produce more of them and therefore using up more cholesterol that way.
And third, the probiotic actually broke down the cholesterol and consumed it for nourishment.
Furthermore, the L. reuteri probiotic worked at doses of just 200 mg a day — far lower than soluble fiber or other natural products used to reduce cholesterol.
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