Probiotics for Blood Pressure?
We’ve long known about the benefits of probiotics for healing all sorts of health problems that originate in the gut, but now researchers have discovered that friendly bacteria might just play a role in cardiovascular health as well. A meta-analysis of nine studies (published in the AHA journal Hypertension) that tracked over 543 adults with both normal and high blood pressure suggested that taking probiotics lowered systolic blood pressure by 3.56 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 2.38 mmHg, on average. The greatest effects were seen in subjects with BP above 130/85. The one condition for success? Subjects had to consume probiotics consistently for eight weeks in order to see results.
The gut is home to very diverse friendly bacteria, so it’s no surprise that probiotics with multiple strains were more successful at lowering BP than single-strain sources. Though the mechanism of action is unclear, researchers think that probiotics may work to lower blood pressure by reducing insulin resistance in the cells and regulating hormonal signals in the bloodstream.
Fast Facts: Studies show getting your blood pressure into the healthy range can reduce the risk of stroke by 35% to 40% and reduce the risk of heart attack by 16%.
Fighting Fatty Liver
The liver is home to the body’s hardest working detoxification pathways. Though it is inevitably comprised of some fat cells, detox issues occur when fat makes up more than 5-10% of the liver (leading to chronic disease like obesity and diabetes). Alcohol abuse is often implicated in fatty liver disease, though poor diet and genetic susceptibility can also put you at risk for developing poor liver function.
Spanish researchers recently discovered that two Lactobacillus and one Bifidobacterium probiotic strains prevented the accumulation of fat in the liver of obese rats, thereby fighting off fatty liver disease. But that’s not all – the probiotics also demonstrated potent anti-inflammatory activity, improved the rats’ lipid profiles, and decreased triglyceride counts. Several markers of cancerous inflammation – including tumor necrosis factor and interleukin 6 – were also substantially decreased in the presence of probiotics.
Fast Facts: One of the best ways to prevent fatty liver is by bulking up the body with detoxifying nutrients. Extensive research has shown that glutathione precursors (such as n-acetyl-cysteine, glycine, glutamine, milk thistle, resveratrol, omega-3s, selenium, and vitamin E) all promote detoxification and protect against liver damage.
Probiotic Treatment Improves Insulin Resistance
The E. coli Nissile 1917 bacterium is one of the most studied probiotic strains and has historically been used to treat diarrhea and gastrointestinal issues. Researchers wondered what would happen if they modified the bacterium to produce the nitrogen-containing lipid compound NAPE, which is made by the small intestine and sends appetite cues to the brain. Citing existing research that says NAPE production is inhibited in obese people, researchers hypothesized that boosting the body’s synthesis of the compound could potentially prevent overeating and weight gain.
Mice were fed a high fat diet for eight weeks and given either the NAPE-producing modified bacteria or a placebo. Their predictions were right: Mice who received the bacteria ate significantly less than the control mice, had lower insulin levels and body fat, and reduced their fatty liver deposits. These effects lingered for about four weeks after supplementation was discontinued.
The takeaway? Probiotic treatments are showing big potential for addressing obesity and related metabolic syndrome issues.