AUG 19, 2021 10:18 AM PDT

How Gut Microbes May Link a High-Fat Diet and Heart Disease

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death around the world. Atherosclerosis is known to be a major contributor to cardiovascular illness, and for years, researchers have recognized the connection between atherosclerosis and gut microbes. The many microorganisms in our gastrointestinal tracts serve important functions, but they can also influence the development of different diseases. A metabolite called TMAO (trimethylamine-N-oxide) is generated by gut bacteria, typically when they are digesting animal products eaten by their human host, and it's been suggested that TMAO influences the development of atherosclerosis.

Image credit: Max Pixel

Researchers have now learned more about these connections. Reporting in Science, a team of researchers used an animal model to investigate how epithelial cells that line the intestine are impacted by a high-fat diet. Gut bacteria and their metabolites have to be sequestered in the gut. When the epithelial cells lining the gut become damaged and the lining gets leaky, gut microbe metabolites can escape, and may cause inflammation or other problems. This study indicated that high fat diets can cause inflammation and disrupt the epithelial cells that line the gut.

Mitochondria serve a variety of functions but are well-known as the powerhouses of cells. In an animal model, the mitochondrial uptake of oxygen was impaired by a high-fat diet, and nitrate levels in intestinal mucus were increased. 

That creates an environment which promotes the growth of harmful microbes, and increases the production of a bacterial metabolite called TMA (trimethylamine). TMA is converted to TMAO in the liver. The researchers observed that the amount of harmful Enterobacteriaceae microbes, such as E. coli, were also elevated after these changes in the gut.  

“It was known that exposure to a high-fat diet causes dysbiosis - an imbalance in the microbiota favoring harmful microbes, but we didn’t know why or how this was happening. We show one way that diet directly affects the host and promotes the growth of bad microbes," noted senior study author Mariana Byndloss, D.V.M., Ph.D., assistant professor of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

This work also determined that in an animal model, a drug called 5-aminosalicylic acid can reduce TMAO production and help restore the integrity of epithelial cells in the intestine.

“This is evidence that it’s possible to prevent the negative outcomes associated with a high-fat diet,” Byndloss suggested. A drug like 5-aminosalicylic acid could potentially be used with a probiotic to restore a healthy intestinal environment while boosting the levels of beneficial microbes, she added.

Byndloss noted that effective therapeutics for cardiovascular disease can only be created once we fully understand the links between our gut microbes and our health.

Sources: Vanderbilt University, Science

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
MAR 30, 2021
Cardiology
Looking at a Fertility Drug's Cardiac Safety
MAR 30, 2021
Looking at a Fertility Drug's Cardiac Safety
New drugs go through a long and arduous process before they can grace a doctor’s office. One of the last steps is ...
APR 08, 2021
Immunology
It's Not Just Cholesterol That Clogs Arteries
APR 08, 2021
It's Not Just Cholesterol That Clogs Arteries
Researchers have discovered a gene that is directly linked to the development of cardiovascular diseases, such as high b ...
JUN 15, 2021
Cardiology
A Common Thread Among 20% of Sudden Cardiac Deaths
JUN 15, 2021
A Common Thread Among 20% of Sudden Cardiac Deaths
It's estimated that 450,000 Americans die from sudden heart conditions, and in about one in ten cases, the cause is unex ...
SEP 21, 2021
Health & Medicine
The (Not So) Secret To A Happy Life: Fruits, Vegetables, and Exercise
SEP 21, 2021
The (Not So) Secret To A Happy Life: Fruits, Vegetables, and Exercise
Researchers uncover causal link between a healthy lifestyle and satisfaction with life.
SEP 23, 2021
Cardiology
Curbing Adverse Cardiovascular Outcomes Through Influenza Vaccination
SEP 23, 2021
Curbing Adverse Cardiovascular Outcomes Through Influenza Vaccination
Influenza is a severe infectious disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the H1N1 strain of ...
OCT 17, 2021
Cardiology
Flu Vaccination Significantly Reduces Risk of Cardiac Events
OCT 17, 2021
Flu Vaccination Significantly Reduces Risk of Cardiac Events
The flu has been associated with a significantly increased risk of a cardiac event like heart attack or stroke.
Loading Comments...