Bad Cholesterol, Total Cholesterol Reduced by New
Probiotic Due Out Next Year
Microorganisms reduced fatty acids tied to dangerous
plaque buildup in arteries in study with 127 adults
Mitchell L. Jones, M.D., Ph.D., lead
author, holds the pill.
Nov. 5, 2012 — Two daily doses of a probiotic
lowered key cholesterol-bearing molecules in the blood as well as “bad”
and total cholesterol, in a study presented today at the American Heart
Association’s Scientific Sessions 2012.
Probiotics are live microorganisms (naturally
occurring bacteria in the gut) thought to have beneficial effects;
common sources are yogurt or dietary supplements.
In previous studies, a formulation of the bacteria,
known as Lactobacillus reuteri NCIMB 30242, has lowered blood
levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol.
Such treatments are drawing increasing medical
attention as researchers unravel how supplementing gut bacteria (microbiome)
with probiotics can play a role in health and certain chronic diseases
such as heart disease, said Mitchell L. Jones, M.D., Ph.D., lead author
of the study and a research assistant in the Faculty of Medicine at
McGill University in Montreal.
Researchers investigated whether the same probiotic
could lower LDL and reduce blood levels of cholesterol esters —
molecules of cholesterol attached to fatty acids, a combination that
accounts for most total blood cholesterol and has been tied to
cardiovascular disease risk.
Researchers tracked cholesterol esters bound to
saturated fat, which have been linked to dangerous arterial plaque
buildup and occur at higher levels in coronary artery disease patients.
The study involved 127 adult patients with high
cholesterol. About half the participants took L. reuteri NCIMB
30242 twice a day, while the rest were given placebo capsules.
Those taking the probiotic had LDL levels 11.6
percent lower than those on placebo after nine weeks. Furthermore,
cholesterol esters were reduced by 6.3 percent and cholesterol ester
saturated fatty acids by 8.8 percent, compared with the placebo group.
For the first time, research shows that the
probiotic formulation can reduce cholesterol esters “and in particular
reduce the cholesterol esters associated with ‘bad’ saturated fatty
acids in the blood,” said Jones, co-founder and chief science officer of
Micropharma, the company that formulated the probiotic.
Furthermore, people taking the probiotic had total
cholesterol reduced by 9.1 percent. HDL “good” cholesterol and blood
triglycerides, a dangerous form of fat in the blood, were unchanged.
Scientists have proposed that Lactobacillus
bacteria alone may impact cholesterol levels in several ways, including
breaking apart molecules known as bile salts. L. reuteri NCIMB
30242 was fermented and formulated to optimize its effect on cholesterol
and bile salts.
Based on correlations between LDL reduction and
bile measurements in the gut, the study results suggest the probiotic
broke up bile salts, leading to reduced cholesterol absorption in the
gut and less LDL.
The probiotic worked at doses of just 200
milligrams a day, far lower than those for soluble fiber or other
natural products used to reduce cholesterol.
“Most dietary cholesterol management products
require consumption between 2 to 25 grams a day,” Jones said.
Patients appear to tolerate the probiotic well and
the probiotic strain L. reuteri has a long history of safe use,
Because of the small number of patients involved in
the study, researchers aren’t sure if the impact of the probiotic
differs between men and women or among ethnic groups.
Co-authors are Christopher J. Martoni, Ph.D. and
Satya Prakash, Ph.D.
Micropharma funded the study and owns intellectual
property rights for the formulation, which is expected to be on the U.S.
market next year.
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