Studies have shown probiotics substantially lower cardiovascular risk.
The Human GI Tract
The human GI tract is home to more than 100 trillion bacteria per person. Together this giant population is referred to as the gut microbiota, or gut microbiome.
These organisms have evolved along with their human hosts to produce a mutually beneficial relationship. Gut organisms produce critical molecules that humans cannot make for themselves, while humans provide a safe and nutrient-rich environment in return.
All microbiota come from our mothers (at birth) and from early childhood environments, and this community of organisms can remain remarkably stable throughout our adult lives. Disruptions to the natural bacterial community, however, are not uncommon, and can cause at least temporary changes in the makeup of the community.
Prolonged, or repeated disturbances, such as frequent antibiotic use or a poor diet, can produce more lasting changes, many of which are harmful to the body as a whole. Certain disruptions in the structure of the microbial community have now been associated with specific health problems both within the bowel (e.g., inflammatory bowel disease) and in the body as a whole. This can be seen most clearly in obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Probiotic Supplementation | L. Reuteri
Human studies on Probiotic Supplementation consisting of Lactobacillus Reuteri (aka L. Reuteri) have yielded some impressive results.
In one study of adults with elevated cholesterol, subjects consumed either a regular yogurt or one supplemented with L. reuteri. Over a six-week period, supplemented patients’ total cholesterol dropped nearly 5% and LDL cholesterol fell by nearly 9%. Supplemented patients also had a significant decline in concentrations of apolipoprotein B-100 (apoB-100), a marker of LDL particle number and a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Another study demonstrated similarly impressive results in a group of adults with high cholesterol. After taking L. reuteri organisms in capsule form for nine weeks, LDL cholesterol fell by nearly 12%, total cholesterol fell by 9%, non-HDL cholesterol fell by 11%, and apoB-100 fell by 8%, with a reduction in the LDL to HDL cholesterol ratio of 13%.
This study also demonstrated the long-term benefits of such cholesterol reduction because of its positive impact on two important markers of inflammation: high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) and fibrinogen. In the patients taking L. reuteri, hs-CRP was reduced by 1.05 mg/L (62%) and fibrinogen was reduced by 14%.
For subjects who began the study with hs-CRP levels in the average or high-risk categories at baseline, 27.1% of supplemented patients reduced their risk category by one or more risk categories (e.g., from high to average risk, from average to low risk, or from high to low risk), compared to only 1.7% of control subjects. And 22% of supplemented patients decreased their hs-CRP risk category by one risk group (e.g., high to average risk or average to low risk), compared to just 2% of controls.
What is Cool About L. Reuteri?
Lactobacillus reuteri produces an antibiotic type substance called Reuterin that can eliminate pathogenic bacteria, yeasts, fungi and protozoas. It can also reduce or eliminate symtoms associated with diarrhea, flatulence, and nausea.
How L. Reuteri Reduces Cholesterol Levels
The key to success for L. reuteri is in its ability to produce an enzyme called bile salt hydrolase. This enzyme makes cholesterol less absorbable so that instead of being absorbed into the bloodstream, it becomes trapped in the gut, then later excreted in fecal matter.
Like all fats, cholesterol in its free state cannot dissolve in water (think of how oil and water separate in a jar) and is not easily absorbed on its own. This creates a problem because cholesterol—both LDL and HDL—is beneficial for the body and is necessary for functions such as forming cell membranes and creating hormones.
In order to make cholesterol more absorbable, liver cells produce free bile acids, which are then bonded (conjugated) to the amino acids glycine and taurine and secreted into the intestines. Conjugated bile acids are more water-soluble than free bile acids, meaning they are better able to assist with the absorption of cholesterol.
The problem is that when too much cholesterol is available, either from excess dietary consumption or excess release from the liver into the small intestine, the reabsorption of cholesterol causes the body to maintain blood cholesterol levels higher than necessary, raising cardiovascular disease risk.
The bile salt hydrolase (enzyme) activity of L. reuteri breaks the chemical bonds of conjugated bile acids, thereby releasing free bile acids, which are less water-soluble. In essence, in the presence of L. reuteri, cholesterol molecules may become trapped inside the gut, where they are then excreted. This process interrupts regular cholesterol reabsorption, helping lower blood cholesterol levels.
Superior Cardiovascular Support
A direct comparison of L. reuteri supplementation with other heart health-promoting supplements is eye-opening. Plant-derived sterols, soy, and fiber supplements all have beneficial effects on cholesterol reduction. However, the probiotic is superior in terms of its effects on inflammatory markers of cardiovascular risk (e.g., CRP and fibrinogen), in promoting gastrointestinal health, and in terms of its low dose (100 mg/dose) compared with doses in the range of 1 to 50 grams for the others.
Pharmacology researchers are eager to exploit the role of bile acids as cholesterol-regulating signals, and have already rushed to produce semisynthetic versions aimed at lowering cholesterol.10 But simply supplementing with L. reuteri, a patent-protected strain of probiotic, can provide effective results using a safe, natural strain of a common, beneficial member of your own intestinal microbiome.
Although, many Lactobacillus bacteria are “generally recognized as safe” by the Food and Drug Administration, L. reuteri has also undergone extensive laboratory characterization and safety testing. L. reuteri has demonstrated no adverse effects associated with its consumption as a supplement, including no loss of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and beta carotene). In fact, research demonstrates that L. reuteri supplementation can increase levels of the heart-protective vitamin D by nearly 26%.
An great article on the subject can be found here.