Can Probiotics Prevent Cardiovascular Disease?
— By Dawn M. Sweet, Ph.D
A healthy diet that includes probiotics may further reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Excess weight is a well-documented risk factor for developing high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, stroke, and heart failure. Independent of other risk factors, patients with obesity are at an increased risk of cardiovascular mortality.1 A healthy diet for patients with cardiovascular disease can help decrease health risks, so in the context of cardiovascular disease, patient education is key. One such area for patient education is probiotics. While research into the relationship between probiotics and cardiovascular disease is a developing area of research, results are promising.
According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular disease was responsible for nearly 18 million deaths globally2, and by 2025, it’s estimated that 2.8 million women and 5 million men are expected to succumb to cardiovascular disease.3 Given the magnitude of death associated with cardiovascular, it is important to consider how lifestyle changes focused on diet and weight loss can effect positive change and contribute to decreases in the projected mortality rate of persons with cardiovascular disease.
Probiotics and Cardiovascular Health
Traditional approaches to managing cardiovascular disease include medications and diet and exercise.4 A newer, and as of now less traditional approach, is attending to patients’ microbiome. There is evidence to suggest dysbiosis, the alteration of microbiota in a pathological manner, is linked to the pathogenesis of diseases such as obesity, diabetes, insulin resistance, and hypertension.4 Appropriate amounts of probiotics have been found to confer health benefits improve gut health. Over the past few years, probiotic interventions in the context of cardiovascular health have gained traction.
In a recent meta-analysis4 of 34 studies, there is evidence that supports improvements in blood pressure with a probiotic intervention. For example, as reported in the meta-analysis, a study of 755 adults that included a control group and an intervention group, a statistically significant difference was found in the average systolic and diastolic blood pressure (-1.31 mmHg in SBP and 1.87mm HG in DBP) in the probiotic intervention group
In another study that pooled 1,727 adults from 24 studies, a significant difference in cholesterol (Mdiff = 6.05 mg/dL in total cholesterol) was found in the probiotic intervention group. Interestingly, it was reported that the probiotic intervention was more efficacious in male patients than female patients while decreases in cholesterol were observed more in patients receiving a higher probiotic dose (> 1.0 X 109 CFU). Significant differences were also observed in BMI for study participants in the intervention group. For example, 1,205 participants pooled across 19 studies an overall difference of -.31 kg/m2 was observed in the treatment group. Probiotics were implicated in a BMI reduction of 0.48 kg/m2 in patients with obesity.
While research into the role of probiotics and cardiovascular health is still developing, as noted in the 2020 meta-analysis4, the pooled effects of the reported upon studies demonstrate efficacy and for the inclusion of probiotics as part of a patients’ diet plan. This is particularly important for patients with obesity and cardiovascular disease because of the improvements in blood pressure, total cholesterol, and reduced BMI.
Following a healthy diet that includes probiotics can help patients lose weight and improve cardiovascular health. Nutritionally formulated meal replacements — supplemented with probiotics and used in conjunction with a Low Calorie Diet (LCD) or Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD) — can be efficacious in the journey to weight loss and improved cardiovascular health.
3 The heart of 25 by 25: achieving the goal of reducing global and regional premature deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke: a modelling study from the American Heart Association and World Heart Federation