MONDAY, Nov. 5 (HealthDay News) -- People who took a probiotic
supplement containing a beneficial bacteria saw their cholesterol
levels improve, and a freeze-dried concoction made from a
genetically engineered tomato had a similar effect on mice, two new
The research, to be presented Monday at the American Heart
Association annual meeting in Los Angeles, is the latest to use
nonpharmaceuticals or specially designed foods to rein in high
cholesterol -- a major risk factor for heart disease, heart attack
In one study involving 127 people with high cholesterol, those
who took a twice-daily supplement of a special strain of the
Lactobacillus reuteribacterium for nine weeks experienced an
average 11.6 percent drop in LDL "bad" cholesterol and a 9.1
percent drop in total cholesterol, compared to those taking a
Other strains of
L. reuteriare found naturally in breads and yogurts, but
researchers at the Canadian probiotics company Micropharma, which
funded the study, say they've formulated a strain that seems to
help block the absorption of cholesterol.
The strain, called
L. reuteriNCIMB 30242 and marketed as Cardioviva, is thought
to help break up bile salts, which helps lower absorption of
Dr. Mitchell Jones, chief scientific officer at Micropharma,
helped develop the product, which he said can also be added to food
products such as yogurts. "Cardioviva is a novel, natural approach
to one of the most prevalent heart problems of our time, high
cholesterol," Jones said. As to safety, he added that, "like other
probiotics, if there are gastrointestinal side effects, they are
rare and usually minor."
According to Jones, Micropharma plans to launch Cardioviva in
supplement form in Canada early in 2013, and "in the U.S. market we
are working to launch the supplement a little later on in 2013,
maybe by the fall."
One heart expert said that products such as Cardioviva might
help reduce cholesterol, but they should be seen as just one added
weapon in the battle against heart disease.
"As a well-tolerated substance, and easily taken at a lower dose than other supplements, Lactobacillusmay be a beneficial supplement in reducing cholesterol," said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a preventive cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
However, she said that any effective attempt to lower
cholesterol should always involve healthy diet and exercise.
A second study looked at a genetically engineered tomato that
produces a peptide (a type of protein) that mimics the effect of
HDL "good" cholesterol when eaten.
The study involved mice that were specially bred to have
uncontrolled LDL "bad" cholesterol. The mice were fed a
high-calorie, fatty "Western"-style diet plus a freeze-dried,
ground version of the genetically tweaked tomato for two weeks. The
tomato powder made up 2.2 percent of the rodents' total diet.
The researchers, led by Dr. Alan Fogelman, chair of the
department of medicine at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine in
Los Angeles, said that mice given the powder displayed lower blood
levels of inflammation, higher levels of good cholesterol and less
signs of atherosclerotic plaques ("hardening of the arteries"),
among other signs of improving cardiovascular health.
"We have found a new and practical way to make a peptide that acts like the main protein in good cholesterol, but is many times more effective and can be delivered by eating the plant," Fogelman, who is also director of the Atherosclerosis Research Unit at UCLA, said in an AHA news release.
The study was funded by the U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood
Reviewing the data, cardiologist Steinbaum said, "Although
interesting, a mice trial like this cannot necessarily be
extrapolated to the choices that human beings make, in terms of the
foods that they eat."
And she warned against hoping for too much from research into
"Based on this trial alone in mice, the concept of 'medicinal' genetically engineered foods are notthe do-it-yourself pharmacies of the future," Steinbaum said.
A smarter, old-fashioned choice would be simply to eat more
healthily, she added.
"We know that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and multi-grains, and low in fats, can also decrease the incidence of heart disease in humans," Steinbaum said. "Yet the Western diet filled with fat and simple sugars still is more preferred."
Experts also note that findings presented at medical meetings
are typically considered preliminary until published in a
Find out more about cholesterol at the
American Heart Association.
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