Women with lower diversity of “healthy” gut bacteria showed greater arterial stiffness, suggesting that altering the gut microbiome with diet, medication or probiotics could play a role in preventing cardiovascular disease, according to new research published in the European Heart Journal.
Additionally, investigators noted that greater abundance of bacteria from the Ruminococcaceae family, which have been previously linked to a lower risk for obesity, also correlated with lower arterial stiffness.
“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,” study author Ana M. Valdes, PhD, of the University of Nottingham’s School of Medicine and NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Center, said in a press release. “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.”
To assess the relationship between arterial stiffness and the composition of the gut microbiome, Valdes and colleagues reviewed data on 617 middle-aged women from the TwinsUK registry, a national registry of adult twins. They measured arterial stiffness using carotid-femoral pulse-wave velocity (PWV) and analyzed gut microbiome composition using sequencing data from stool samples.
After adjusting for covariates, the investigators observed a significant association between microbial diversity and arterial health; those with lower diversity of healthy bacteria showed greater arterial stiffness. Further analysis revealed that differences in the gut microbiome accounted for 8.3% (95% CI, 4.3-12.4) of the variation in arterial stiffness, and after adjusting for age, BMI and blood pressure, only 5.51% of the microbial impact on arterial stiffness appeared to be mediated by insulin resistance and visceral fat, C-reactive protein and cardiovascular risk factors.
The investigators concluded that characterizing the gut microbiota could be helpful for stratifying cardiovascular risk that is not explained by traditional risk factors, particularly among women and younger patients. Additionally, these results suggest the potential of influencing cardiovascular risk with microbiome-targeted therapies and dietary interventions, and might even point to the mechanism by which dietary fiber can impact heart health, they noted.
“There is considerable interest in finding ways to increase the diversity of gut microbes for other conditions such as obesity and diabetes,” study author Cristina Menni, PhD, of the Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology at King’s College London, said in the press release. “Our findings now suggest that finding dietary interventions to improve the healthy bacteria in the gut could also be used to reduce the risk of heart disease.” – by Adam Leitenberger
Disclosures: Some of the authors report financial relationships with Metabolon, MapMygut and Zoe Global.