We know that probiotics have many virtues. Mainly known for their effects on immunity and digestion, probiotics are also able to act on cholesterol level and as a result, the risk of cardiovascular disease.
According to WHO (World Health Organization), cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in developed countries. There is a part of heredity in their occurence, but it is above all an unhealthy lifestyle that is primarily responsible (i.e. lack of physical activity, poor diet, smoking or excessive alcohol consumption).
The heart, this indispensable organ
The heart is a vital organ that must be cared for! This pump distributes blood to organs, tissues and cells to provide oxygen and nutrients necessary for their functioning. To perform its own duties/functions, the heart also needs to be nourished. This role is guaranteed by the coronary arteries. When they are clogged, they do not sufficiently supply the heart, causing stopping or bad contractions and involving different cardiovascular diseases occur such as infarction.
One reason of this obstruction is atherosclerosis. It corresponds to the deposit of an atheroma plaque on artery walls. The arteries will harden, thicken and lose elasticity due to a deposit composed mainly of lipids, blocking the blood transport.
Cholesterol & cardiovascular diseases
Cholesterol is a lipid beneficial to our body, essential in hormonal synthesis and cellular life. Nevertheless, it can be harmful for health if it is in excess.
Cholesterol is brought by our diet or formed in the liver. It is transported in blood by different lipoproteins:
- HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) also named “good cholesterol”, whose function is to remove excess cholesterol from the blood.
- LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein), or “bad cholesterol”, whose bring cholesterol to cells. However, too much cholesterol is responsible for the formation of atheroma plaque.
Intestinal microbiota & lipid metabolism
The intestinal microbiota is a complex and diverse ecosystem that participates in essential metabolisms of digestion, including lipid metabolism. It has been shown to be involved in the atherosclerosis development. Some bacteria are able to produce pro-atherogenic metabolites while others, on the contrary, can metabolize cholesterol or convert bile acids, and thus, influence the cholesterol concentration in blood.
The modulation of its composition and activity is a new way of treating cardiovascular diseases. This can include supplementation of probiotics selected for their ability to rebalance the intestinal microbiota and regulate cholesterol.
Probiotics & cholesterol
Several clinical trials have been conducted to demonstrate the benefits of probiotics on the lipid profile.
Their consumption permits to reduce LDL-cholesterol and total cholesterol but also the ratios of total cholesterol/HDL-cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol/HDL-cholesterol, considered as atherogenic markers.
Further studies are expected to confirm these results.