It’s long been known that probiotics can be beneficial for your digestive system, but did you know that they may also be helpful for your heart? Current research suggests that gut bacteria plays an important role in heart function, and that probiotics may be a good addition to your heart healthy lifestyle.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are live, good bacteria or yeasts that are essential for maintaining a healthy gut and preventing a bacterial imbalance. Your digestive system is full of these bacteria that must remain in the right balance for optimal health. Some of the most common probiotic strains studied for their health effects include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.

How probiotics benefit the heart

Research suggests that having imbalanced gut microbiota may increase your risk for developing cardiovascular disease, among other conditions.

While more human studies are needed, a large body of evidence suggests that probiotics have the following heart health benefits:1,2,3

● Lower LDL “bad” cholesterol
● Raise HDL “good” cholesterol
● Lower blood pressure
● Reduce inflammation
● Lower blood glucose levels
● Improved insulin sensitivity
● Support a healthy body mass index

Some probiotics may not only help to bring balance to unhealthy cholesterol levels, but may have an application in preventing high cholesterol in the first place. There appears to be a relationship between the gut bacteria and the bacteria found in the plaque of people with atherosclerosis, suggesting that the health of the gut microbiome may be an important indicator of heart health.4,5

How do probiotics lower cholesterol? Some researchers hypothesize that they promote the absorption or binding of cholesterol by growing cells, or the ability of gut bacteria to transform cholesterol into something that can be excreted.1

Animal studies have shown the ability of probiotics to improve heart function and reduce heart damage. Much of their benefit has been attributed to an increase in antioxidant concentration in the heart tissue, which lowers oxidative damage and inflammation around this very important organ.6

Probiotics have also been studied for their potential role in managing heart disease following a heart attack. They have shown so much promise for heart health that some researchers even suggest that they be added as a therapeutic lifestyle change dietary recommendations in the clinical setting for individuals with heart disease.7,8

Many of these benefits, such as blood pressure reduction, are seen when different species of probiotics are consumed regularly for at least several weeks.1

Where to find probiotics

Probiotics can be found in both dietary supplement form or in fermented foods, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, natto, miso, yogurt, kefir, and some cheese.

Adding foods or supplements that contain probiotics may be helpful in supporting the health of your gut bacteria, and simultaneously, the health of your heart. Most of the food we consume is not a good source of probiotics, so using a product like Daily Start is an easy and convenient way to add them into your routine.

However you choose to add probiotics into your lifestyle can help you support the health of one of the most important organs in your body, starting in your digestive system.

Yours in Health-
Ana Reisdorf, MS, RD
IVL’s Community Registered Dietitian

References

  1. Bronzato S, Durante A. Dietary Supplements and Cardiovascular Diseases. Int J Prev Med. 2018 Sept 17;9:80.
  2. Yoo JY & Kim SS. Probiotics and Prebiotics: Present Status and Future Perspectives on Metabolic Disorders. Nutrients. 2016 Mar 18;8(3):173.
  3. Thushara RM, Gangadaran S, Solati Z, & Moghadasian MH. Cardiovascular benefits of probiotics: a review of experimental and clinical studies. Food Funct. 2016 Feb;7(2):632-42.
  4. Shimizu M, Hashiguchi M, Shiga T, Tamura HO, & Mochizuki M. Meta-Analysis: Effects of Probiotic Supplementation on Lipid Profiles in Normal to Mildly Hypercholesterolemic Individuals. PLoS One. 2015 Oct 16;10(10):e0139795.
  5. Tang WH, Kitai T, Hazen SL. Gut Microbiota in Cardiovascular Health and Disease. Circ Res. 2017;120(7):1183–1196.
  6. Sadeghzadeh J, Vakili A, Sameni HR, Shadnoush M, Bandegi AR, Zahedi Khorasani M. The Effect of Oral Consumption of Probiotics in Prevention of Heart Injury in a Rat Myocardial Infarction Model: a Histopathological, Hemodynamic and Biochemical Evaluation. Iran Biomed J. 2017;21(3):174–181.
  7. Moludi J, Alizadeh M, Davari M, Golmohammadi A, Maleki V. The efficacy and safety of probiotics intervention in attenuating cardiac remodeling following myocardial infraction: Literature review and study protocol for a randomized, double-blinded, placebo controlled trial. Contemp Clin Trials Commun. 2019;15:100364. Published 2019 Apr 13.
  8. DiRienzo DB. Effect of probiotics on biomarkers of cardiovascular disease: implications for heart-healthy diets. Nutr Rev. 2014 Jan;72(1):18-29.