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Diet to boost your microbiome offers a path to heart health

Israeli microbiologists and chemists identified and characterised over 700 different bacterial species isolated from the gut.

Taiwan boosts coronavirus testing for tech industry
A doctor teaches volunteer medical staff how to collect a swab sample for Covid-19 testing in Hsinchu, Taiwan - Copyright AFP Sam Yeh
A doctor teaches volunteer medical staff how to collect a swab sample for Covid-19 testing in Hsinchu, Taiwan - Copyright AFP Sam Yeh

Scientists have demonstrated how major disturbances that occur in the gut microbiome in people suffering from heart disease can provide clues as to the nature of attacks and for recovery. This is based on the latest microbiome research.

Based on the analysis medics say that stronger and more focused public health initiatives to prevent or delay heart-related diseases can be instigated. In doing so, the researchers contend, one of the main causes of premature death worldwide can be addressed.

Central to this is the recommendation for a plant-based and energy-controlled diet, coupled with the avoidance of smoking and undertaking daily exercise. Importantly, simply eating vegetables alone, albeit with some benefits, is not sufficient to address heart issues without exercise.

That a gut microbiome imbalance occurs in those suffering with heart disease has been shown through metagenomics. These studies have shown that compounds that are produced by the imbalanced or diseased microbiome. In particular, there is a bacterial compound called trimethylamine (TMA) that after modification in the liver of the human host causes arteriosclerosis.

All told, the Israeli microbiologists and chemists identified and characterised over 700 different bacterial species isolated from the gut. The researchers also estimated the functions of these organisms in the gut microbiome. The output was compared to more than 1,000 compounds circulating in blood with many of these compounds originating from the inner gut chemistry factory.

The compounds of concern can be detected in advance of a cardiac event. A significant level – at 75 percent – of the disturbances of the gut microbiome appears to occur in the early disease stages of people who are overweight and have type 2 diabetes. This means screening could be undertaken and early interventions may be possible.

Such screening can be particularly useful since the chemical alterations may well start many years before onset of heart disease symptoms and diagnosis.

The research overall supports the developing scientific consensus that the gut microbiome needs to become a more focused topic for public health initiatives.

The research relates to two papers published in Nature Medicine. The first is “Microbiome and metabolome features of the cardiometabolic disease spectrum”; and the second is “Metabolomic and microbiome profiling reveals personalized risk factors for coronary artery disease.”

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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