Cardiovascular and coronary artery disease risk are correlated with cholesterol levels and are significant health concerns. Current cholesterol-lowering approaches includes lifestyle and diet modifications, as well as statins which presents numerous shortcomings. The probiotic bacteria, Lactobacillus fermentum NCIMB 5221 and NCIMB 2797, have demonstrated cholesterol-lowering potential in animal studies. However, there is a lack in understanding the mechanism(s) behind these observed effects. The goal of this work is to investigate, in vitro, the cholesterol-lowering mechanisms of these two strains. To determine the cholesterol-lowering mechanisms, probiotic cholesterol assimilation, colon epithelial adhesion and inhibition of cholesterol uptake by colon epithelial (Caco-2) cells were investigated. L. fermentum NCIMB 2797 (P=0.012) and NCIMB 5221 (P=0.003) assimilated cholesterol and their cell surface hydrophobicity was 70.30±8.85% and 55.60±2.59%, respectively. Both L. fermentum strains showed no significant impact (P>0.05) on Caco-2 cell viability. Of most interest, Caco-2 pre-exposure to L. fermentum NCIMB 5221 significantly decreased (P=0.015) cholesterol uptake, with 85.98±2.07% uptake compared to the untreated cells. Similarly, L. fermentum NCIMB 2797 probiotic cells significantly decreased (P=0.019) cholesterol uptake by Caco-2 cells, with 86.45±1.71% uptake observed compared to the control cells. The results demonstrate that L. fermentum NCIMB 5221 and L. fermentum NCIMB 2797 have the potential via various modes of action to lower cholesterol. Additional studies are required to understand the mechanism(s) of action behind probiotic cholesterol assimilation and behind the cholesterol uptake inhibition by colon epithelial cells.
Keywords: Lactobacillus; cholesterol; coronary artery disease; probiotic.