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The meta-analysis, published in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, examined data from 13 trials, which together included 485 participants with high, borderline-high, and normal cholesterol and triglyceride levels. The studies ranged in duration between four and ten weeks. In each study, a probiotic supplement made with one or more strains of lactobacilli, bifidobacteria, and enterococci was compared to placebo.
When analyzed together, the data showed probiotic supplements may have a small, positive effect on lipid levels:
“Based on the currently available literature, we can state that oral probiotics have beneficial effects on total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol for subjects with high, borderline-high and normal cholesterol levels,” the study’s authors concluded. They noted that the average reduction in lipid levels was less than 3% and therefore relatively small compared with available lipid-lowering medications. They went on to suggest that probiotics might be useful in conjunction with medications in people with high cardiovascular risk.
The research consistently shows that a healthy diet and lifestyle are the key components to preventing heart disease. In fact, diet and exercise are more effective than cholesterol-lowering drugs when it comes to preventing heart attack and stroke. The findings from this new review show that probiotics can be part of an overall cholesterol-lowering program, which would also include:
(Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis 2011;21:844–50)