The gut microbiome is now the at the forefront of medicine, and is being linked to more health implications every day. There have been studies showing links between gut health and obesity, diabetes, and many other inflammatory conditions. More recently however, scientists have found a link between the gut microbiome and arterial hardening.
Arterial stiffening has been accepted as an indicator of risk for heart disease, but there has been a bit of a disconnect between people who may be otherwise healthy, yet they show this risk factor. Unlike other risk factors for cardiovascular disease that are often linked, arterial hardening can appear in some people without any other predispositions or risk factors. This new research has indicated a possible link for why these so-called outliers show arterial hardening with no other explanation - the gut microbiome.
This study revealed that there was a significant correlation between the diversity of bacteria in the gut and the health of one's arteries. It was found that a lower diversity of bacteria in the gut was linked to increased arterial stiffness in women, even after results were corrected for metabolic variations and blood pressure! Furthermore, the study identified specific microbes that were associated with a lower risk of arterial stiffening; these same microbes were previously associated with lower risk of obesity.
So why is this so important? Well, first off, knowing that there may be a link between gut diversity and arterial stiffness now gives a better understanding of the risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease. Prior to this understanding there have been a significant number of cardiovascular events that were relatively unexplainable, due to the fact that the person involved was either very young or had no prior risk factors (obesity, smoking, etc.). This also opens up a new avenue for testing for risk factors of cardiovascular disease, as gut diversity can now be considered. Moreover, this means that dietary interventions can be implemented specifically for people with this type of risk factor. Including things like probiotics and fibre alongside other modalities may now be a promising way to significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease!
This research definitely shows just how powerful our little microbes are, and opens up a new window for treatment modalities and risk diagnosis. With that, I will leave you with one final quote:
"All disease starts in the gut" - Hippocrates
Cristina Menni, Chihung Lin, Marina Cecelja, Massimo Mangino, Maria Luisa Matey-Hernandez, Louise Keehn, Robert P Mohney, Claire J Steves, Tim D Spector, Chang-Fu Kuo, Phil Chowienczyk, Ana M Valdes. Gut microbial diversity is associated with lower arterial stiffness in women. European Heart Journal, 2018; DOI: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehy226