BACTERIA in the gut could be an indicator for heart disease and be targeted to reduce the risk of such a condition occurring, according to researchers from the University of Nottingham, and King’s College London, UK. The study reveals an association between levels of bacterial diversity in the gut and hardening of the arteries, a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Measuring Arterial Stiffening
Previous research has shown that a lack of diversity of healthy bacteria in the gut is linked to a number of health problems, including diabetes. Additionally, the gut microbiome is believed to play a role in disease mechanisms which can predispose people to heart disease. In this study, the team measured arterial stiffening using carotid-femoral pulse-wave velocity (PWV) in addition to data on the composition of the gut microbiomes from medical data of 617 middle-aged female twins.
Association with Diversity Levels
They found that in women with a lower diversity of healthy bacteria in the gut, there was higher arterial stiffness following adjustments for metabolic variations and blood pressure. Specific microbes, previously associated with a reduced risk of obesity, were also linked to a lower risk of arterial stiffening in the analysis.
The researchers therefore believe the gut microbiome could be targeted to help prevent heart disease in some situations, including in the form of new treatments. Dr Ana Valdes, University of Nottingham, commented: “We know that a substantial proportion of serious cardiovascular events like heart attacks are not explained by traditional risk factors such as obesity and smoking, particularly in younger people and in women and that arterial stiffness is related to risk in those groups. So our results reveal the first observation in humans linking the gut microbes and their products to lower arterial stiffness. It is possible that the gut bacteria can be used to detect risk of heart disease and may be altered by diet or drugs to reduce the risk.”
Importance of Diet
The findings also suggest that dietary interventions that improve the quantity and diversity of useful microbes in the gut, such as a high fibre diet, could be used to reduce the risk of heart disease. They acknowledge, however, that further research is needed to understand the effect dietary fibre has in this respect.
James Coker, Reporter
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