APR 05, 2016 1:55 PM PDT

Fighting Heart Disease with Manipulation of the Gut Microbiome

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker
Many people applaud red wine for its health benefits, however vague these benefits are often presented. A new study from the American Society for Microbiology clears up any ambiguity, linking a specific effect on heart health to a polyphenolic compound: resveratrol. 

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Resveratrol has been known to have anti-atherosclerosis properties, but the current study shows significant findings from an investigation of the novel possibility that the human gut microbiome is involved in plaque buildup and resveratrol achieves its beneficial qualities by manipulating the microbiome. 

In the study published in mBio, scientists conducted experiments with mice to determine what exactly the role of the gut microbiome is in the relationship between resveratrol and reduction of plaque buildup, if it plays a part at all. 
 

They found that resveratrol reduces production of trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO), a compound already known to contribute to atherosclerosis-related plaque buildup. Enter the gut microbiome, a diverse population of bacteria that collectively produces the precursor to TMAO, trimethylamine (TMA). With its unique ability to "remodel" the gut microbiome, resveratrol inhibits the reaction causing gut bacterial production of TMA. Among resveratrol's repertoire for remodeling are changing ratios of bacterial strains, inhibiting growth, and controlling relative abundance of TMA-producing bacteria populations.

Resveratrol is not found just in red wine. Peanuts, grapes, and some berries are also rich sources of the polyphenol. Plus, resveratrol is also linked to a potential for lowering the risk of cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.

What benefits does it provide for the plants it is found in? Like humans, plants are vulnerable to damage from stress, injury, fungal infection, and ultraviolet radiation (Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute). Various antioxidant properties of resveratrol help maintain tissue health under challenging environmental conditions:

1. Anti-inflammation

2. Decreased proliferation of vascular smooth muscle cells

3. Decreased aggregation of platelets 

These qualities are what make resveratrol such a powerful agent for benefitting heart health. The scientists from the American Society of Microbiology believe that the positive results from the study and the fact that resveratrol is a natural compound that produces no apparent side-effects means that there is good reason to believe that resveratrol could soon be developed as a new treatment for heart disease.
 

Source: American Society for Microbiology
About the Author
I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
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