Probiotics reduce cholesterol absorption and increase cholesterol excretion. But it’s unclear if the effect has significance for patients with hypercholesterolemia.

For example, a recent study in women with normal cholesterol levels reported that regular consumption of both probiotic and conventional yogurt (the best known probiotic) for 4 weeks had a positive effect on the lipid profile. LDL “bad” cholesterol went down, HDL “good” cholesterol when up, and the HDL/LDL cholesterol ratio improved.

However, in another study of postmenopausal women with normal or slightly high cholesterol levels, probiotic consumption did not enhance the cholesterol-lowering effect of soy.

Perhaps more attention to the specific probiotic and dose used, and studies in people with higher cholesterol levels will be needed before this question is resolved. As the use of probiotics expands, this shouldn’t take long.

Illustration: Flora

8/17/06 0:21 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.