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Gut Health and Cholesterol: Can Probiotic Strains Improve Heart Health?

Gut Health and Cholesterol: Can Probiotic Strains Improve Heart Health?

Probiotic bacteria do more than just improve the digestive tract. Specific gut microbiota also play an essential role in heart health. Clinical human studies have shown that specific Lactobacillus bacteria strains reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels [1]. LDL cholesterol is the "bad cholesterol," often associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Therefore, using strain-specific probiotics to assist in lowering unhealthy cholesterol levels could naturally support optimal heart health.  

What is Cholesterol?

You might see many ads or article headlines offering up advice on how to reduce cholesterol naturally. Cholesterol has the sort of bad reputation that Taylor Swift would write a song about. However, cholesterol is critical for our bodies to function, especially our metabolism. 

Cholesterol:

  • Supports Vitamin D production
  • Makes hormones that affect mood and sexuality
  • Provides structure for cellular membranes
  • Produces bile acids critical for fat digestion and nutrient absorption 

You read that right! Healthy cholesterol levels can actually improve your weight problems! So, why does cholesterol get such a bad rap? 

There's a tale of two cholesterols: 

  • "Good cholesterol" - High-density lipoprotein (HDL)
  • "Bad cholesterol" - Low-density lipoprotein (LDL)

What's the difference between HDL and LDL cholesterol? We'll get to that in a moment but wanted to give you a brief introduction upfront.  

First, you should understand how cholesterol works, so you can get a full scope as to why you might need to support your heart health through the gut microbiome.

How Does Cholesterol Work?

Cholesterol performs a lot of crucial functions, but we really don't need that much of it. In fact, the liver makes enough cholesterol to support the entire body! Plus, the small intestines play a role, too. 

These vital organs release cholesterol as lipoproteins. Lipoproteins are essential inner tubes carrying nutrients through a river channel known as our arteries.  

They circulate the bloodstream to perform their critical functions. In a healthy system, the liver filters out any excess cholesterol metabolites. Then, we flush the excess out with our waste. Right here is a prime example of the probiotics and cholesterol connection at work!

However, the liver and small intestines aren't the ones contributing cholesterol to our system. Our diet is, too. That's where cholesterol becomes the enemy!

Good Cholesterol vs. Bad Cholesterol  

high cholesterol in america

As we noted, the body makes enough cholesterol to make Vitamin D, make hormones, produce bile, and more. About 80% of the cholesterol created by the liver is high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. 

HDL cholesterol is considered the "good cholesterol." It helps rid the body of excess lipoproteins, such as LDL cholesterol. 

When we have high blood cholesterol levels, it can cause a backup of inner tubes in the river channel. In time, these abandoned lipoproteins oxidize, causing them to harden.

Like pesky beavers building a dam, oxidized LDL cholesterol creates plaques that block blood flow through the system. Eventually, elevated cholesterol levels can develop into atherosclerosis, a precursor to heart disease. 

Unfortunately, LDL cholesterol makes up the majority of cholesterol in the average person's body [3]. According to the American Heart Association, 28.6 million people have high levels of LDL cholesterol [4]. That's because the Standard American Diet is centered around foods that elevate LDL cholesterol levels. 

Foods to Avoid When LDL Cholesterol is High

Many vegetable oils, processed foods, or foods made from animal fats contain high levels of saturated fats. These fats are harder for your body to break down. They also contain excessive LDL cholesterol.

Foods that give you high cholesterol may include:

  • Fatty cuts of red meat
  • Smoked, cured, and packaged meats
  • Fast food
  • Soft cheeses
  • Whole fat dairy products
  • Vegetable oils (canola, corn, vegetable)

Keep in mind; some saturated fats could be heart-healthy. For instance, coconuts, lean cuts of red meat, and some cheese may lower LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol. When in doubt, opt for leaner antibiotic-free proteins and as many whole foods as possible.

In addition, these foods are also high in omega-6 fatty acids. Too many omega-6 fatty acids can cause chronic inflammation that can lead to heart attacks or strokes [5].

Lastly, trans fats also play a role in the development of high cholesterol. These food additives are highly addictive to consumers and provide little to no health benefits. 

Trans fats are typically found in baked goods, potato chips, and other snacks. So, there's another reason to lay low on the sweets! 

Thankfully, banning trans fats has gained a lot of momentum around the world. Many products are omitting them from their recipes. 

Foods to Boost HDL Cholesterol Levels

Life is about balance. To counteract high LDL cholesterol, you need to consume foods that boost HDL cholesterol levels. Eating more omega-3 fatty acids is a great way to help tip your scales back to the side of heart health.

For one, omega-3s help counteract the damage caused by too many omega-6s. They are also rich in HDL cholesterol which helps offset excess LDL cholesterol. 

food swaps to lower cholesterol

Consume omega-3-rich foods, such as:

  • Oils (fish, walnut, extra virgin olive oil)
  • Fatty fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring)
  • Whole grains (quinoa, bulgur, farro, wild rice)
  • Nuts (Walnuts, Macadamia nuts, almonds)
  • Seeds (Chia, sunflower, pumpkin, flaxseed)
  • Legumes (Black, navy, kidney beans)
  • High-fiber fruit (Apples, prunes, pears)

Legumes and whole grains offer duel benefits. They’re also excellent sources of soluble fiber, which can help flush out toxins that have built up due to the traffic jams caused by excess LDL cholesterol. Plus, fiber serves as food for beneficial bacteria that even out cholesterol levels. 

That's why Ombre recommends starting every day with well-tolerated dietary fibers, such as our Rise Prebiotic Powder.

Ombre Rise Prebiotic Powder

Unlike beans sometimes do, Rise doesn’t cause gas and bloating. Instead, Ombre Rise diversifies the gut microbiome to help prevent inflammation that could promote heart disease while nourishing the beneficial bacteria that contribute to heart health. 

The Gut Microbiome-Heart Health Connection 

Our gut microbiome is teeming with thousands of bacteria. Every species performs a key role in our overall health and functioning. These specific functions become even more precise down to the strains within species. That's what makes clinically supported strain-specific probiotics so beneficial for cardiovascular health.

A human study involving 60 volunteers analyzed the cholesterol levels of two groups. One group took a blend of three strains of Lactobacillus plantarum. The other group took a placebo.

After 12 weeks, the group who took the probiotic supplement experienced a:

  • 13.6% reduction in total cholesterol (TC) 
  • 17.6% reduction in LDL cholesterol 
  • 15.6% reduction in oxidized LDL 

The results suggest that the effect of the strain was proportional to the level of cardiovascular risk. Therefore, the strain had a stronger effect on those with higher cholesterol levels. 

Experts believe these benefits are because select Lactobacillus plantarum strains perform health benefits that reduce LDL cholesterol production. 

For one, Lactobacillus plantarum strains eat dietary fibers, like those found in Ombre Rise. Their waste is our treasure. Lactobacillus plantarum produces short-chain fatty acids. These are little jolts of energy that help our cells work more efficiently. It also increases our cell metabolism.

probiotics for cholesterol

Dietary changes and exercise are the initial line of therapy for most individuals with elevated cholesterol. However, probiotics have gained much interest as an additional nonpharmaceutical avenue to combat this common issue. 

Certain strains of probiotic bacteria have shown the ability to deconjugate bile acids which reduces circulating cholesterol due to the formation of new bile acids. Additionally, these bacteria can produce short-chain fatty acids which have been shown to lower the production of cholesterol. Specifically, the SCFA butyrate has been suggested to interact with the genes that create cholesterol. 

This targeted combination results in a decrease in circulating levels of blood lipids and inflammation markers which positively affects cardiovascular health.   

Best Probiotics for Cholesterol

Optimize your gut bacteria and cholesterol levels will begin to balance. Address inflammation caused by high-fat diets. Reduce the build-up of plaques that can raise blood pressure or promote heart disease. Support metabolic health for overall cardiovascular wellness.

Ombre Heart Health

Help achieve these health goals with Ombre Heart Health. This probiotic contains strains scientifically proven to reduce cholesterol levels and support a healthy heart. Yup, even various strains of Lactobacillus plantarum!

Give your heart the cholesterol-metabolizing support it deserves. Embody a healthier you with Ombre Heart Health.

Resources

[1] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23017585/

[2] https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/high-cholesterol/cholesterol-in-the-blood 

[3] https://www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/ldl_hdl.htm

[4] https://www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/facts.htm