Lowering Cholesterol with Probiotics

by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN Health Professional

High cholesterol levels increase heart disease risk, but there are dietary and lifestyle changes you can make to lower cholesterol levels. In fact, many studies indicate that probiotics may have the potential to improve cholesterol levels.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are good bacteria that promote overall health, especially for the digestive system. Many probiotic supplements contain the same or very similar bacteria to what is already located within the body but may be out of balance with “bad” bacteria due to various health conditions.

How do probiotics lower cholesterol?

Here are three ways probiotics work to improve cholesterol levels:

  1. Probiotics attach to cholesterol molecules within the intestine and are then excreted with waste.

  2. Probiotics produce short-chain fatty acids that interfere with the liver's production of cholesterol.

  3. Probiotics increase bile acid excretion and probiotics decrease the solubility of cholesterol. This action reduces the amount of cholesterol absorbed in the intestine.

Which probiotics are best for lowering cholesterol?

Here are some of the probiotics used in research studies:

  • L. acidophilus combined w/ B. lactis Bb12

  • L. acidophilus combined w/ L. bifidum

  • L. reuteri

  • L. plantarum

  • VSL #3 (contains eight strains of bifidobacterial, lactobacilli, and streptococci)

While results vary, all types of probiotics have been linked to some type of cholesterol improvement, whether it be lowered total cholesterol/LDL cholesterol or increased HDL cholesterol.

A meta-analysis review published in 2015 reported average reductions of 7.8 mg/dL in total cholesterol and 7.3 mg/dL in LDL cholesterol through the use of probiotics.

Should you use probiotic supplements?

Specific recommendations for which strain of probiotics should be supplemented or consumed via dietary sources is yet to be determined.

Discuss probiotics with your doctor to determine if supplementation would be appropriate for you.

You may increase your probiotic intake naturally via probiotic rich foods, such as:

  • Yogurt (with live-cultures)

  • Kefir

  • Sauerkraut

  • Kimchi

  • Miso soup

  • Kvass

  • Kombucha

  • Pickles

  • Natto

  • Dark chocolate

  • Tempeh

  • Apple cider vinegar

  • Brine-cured olives

  • Sourdough bread

  • Cottage cheese (with live cultures)

  • Soft, aged cheese

For additional steps you can take to promote lower cholesterol naturally, sign up for the free e-course How to Lower Cholesterol in 8 Simple Steps.

Lisa Nelson, RD, LN
Meet Our Writer
Lisa Nelson, RD, LN

Lisa Nelson RD, a registered dietitian since 1999, provides step-by-step guidance to lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure, so you can live life and enjoy your family for years to come. Lisa's passion for health comes from her own family history of heart disease, so she doesn't dispense trendy treatments; Lisa practices what she teaches in her own daily life. Because her own health is the foundation of her expertise, you can trust that Lisa will make it truly possible for you to see dramatic changes in your health, without unrealistic fads or impossibly difficult techniques.