Effect of Probiotics on Blood Lipid Concentrations: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials

Medicine (Baltimore). 2015 Oct;94(43):e1714. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000001714.


Previous clinical studies have reported mixed results regarding the effect of probiotics on lipid metabolism. Therefore, we conducted a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials to quantify the direction and magnitude of the potential effect of probiotics on blood lipid concentrations.Eligible studies were randomized, placebo-controlled trials whose interventions were probiotic products containing live bacteria. The studies reported net changes in lipid profiles (total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides) and their associated standard deviations (or the data to calculate them). The probiotic products did not contain prebiotics or other active ingredients, and the full article was accessible in English.The pooled mean net change in lipid profiles and 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs) were calculated. Q statistics and I were calculated to examine heterogeneity. Potential sources of heterogeneity were investigated via subgroup and sensitivity analyses, and publication biases were estimated.A total of 30 randomized controlled trials with 1624 participants (828 in intervention groups and 796 in placebo groups) were included in this analysis. Subjects treated with probiotics demonstrated reduced total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol compared to control subjects by 7.8 mg/dL (95% CI: -10.4, -5.2) and 7.3 mg/dL (95% CI: -10.1, -4.4), respectively. There was no significant effect of probiotics on HDL cholesterol or triglycerides. The effect of probiotics on total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol depended on a variety of factors. The significant effects were greater for higher baseline total cholesterol levels, longer treatment durations, and certain probiotic strains. In addition, these associations seem stronger in studies supported by probiotics companies.The studies included in this meta-analysis showed significant heterogeneity as indicated by the Q statistics and I. In addition, industry sponsorship may affect study findings.These results suggest that the use of probiotics may improve lipid metabolism by decreasing total and LDL cholesterol concentrations. However, both the efficacy of probiotics for cholesterol lowering and safety should be investigated further in well-designed clinical trials.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cholesterol, LDL / blood*
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism / drug effects*
  • Probiotics / pharmacology*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Cholesterol, LDL