According to new research published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, good gut bacteria can give your heart health a boost.
Improving gut health starts with food—fruits, vegetables, whole-grain fiber, yogurt, and kombucha are all good options—but a healthy microbiome also depends on other healthy habits like regular activity, quality sleep, lowered stress levels, less sugar, and moderate alcohol consumption.
Good bacteria in your gut has been linked to a number of benefits, including immune health, better sleep, cancer prevention, and weight control. Now, recent research highlights that it’s also a potential boost for your heart health.
Published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the analysis centers on a particular microbe called Eubacterium limosum—sometimes called E. limosum—which has been shown to calm inflammation in the digestive tract. Researchers at The Ohio State University traced the bacteria’s activity and found it also reduces production of a chemical called trimethylamine that can cause arteries to clog.
Although it doesn’t eliminate the issue, it could have a major impact on reducing the risk of heart disease, senior author Joseph Krzycki, Ph.D., professor of microbiology at Ohio State told Runner’s World.
“This affects health by preventing a problematic compound from becoming a worse one,” he said, adding that isolating the microbe is a step toward the potential creation of a therapeutic product that could be used for heart disease prevention.
Trimethylamine is produced as a by-product when the body metabolizes food and some types of non-beneficial bacteria in the gut interact with specific nutrients.
Of particular interest for athletes: Among those nutrients is L-carnitine, a chemical compound found in meat and fish, which is also used as a nutritional supplement to improve recovery after exercise. Based on this research, you may be upping your atherosclerosis risk without enough E. limosum to counteract the production of trimethylamine.
But, Krzycki emphasizes, there is still much to learn about these microbes and how they work during metabolism, so it’s not necessary to give up your L-carnitine supplement if it’s working for you.
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However, you might want to do more to boost your gut health overall, considering this isn’t the first study to link the gut microbiome with cardiovascular outcomes. A commentary in Circulation originally published in March 2017 pointed out that gut microbes can improve or impair heart function depending on the composition of your microbiome.
In another study in European Heart Journal published in May 2018, middle-aged women with low bacterial diversity had higher levels of inflammation and arterial stiffness, leading those researchers to suggest focusing on gut health as a way to treat age-related heart issues.
Another bonus: The microbes in your gut can alter how you store fat, balance your blood glucose levels, and protect against pathogens. Some experts have even noted it can help your exercise performance.
Improving gut health starts with food—consuming fruits, vegetables, whole-grain fiber, yogurt, and kombucha are all good options—but a healthy microbiome also depends on other healthy habits like regular activity, quality sleep, lowered stress levels, less sugar, and moderate alcohol consumption. Basically, all the tactics you’d pursue for better overall health will also give that good bacteria in your gut just what they need.
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