Home Heart Problems Gut bacteria link to cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis

Gut bacteria link to cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis


It may not be the fat, cholesterol and sugar you consume that harms your heart; more likely it seems is the relationship between the foods you eat and your gut bacteria.


Back in 2012, researchers from the Cleveland Clinic carried out a research study (1) to see if they somehow influence the development of atherosclerosis.

First, they took blood samples from people who were healthy and compared them with people who had recently had a heart attack or stroke.

The blood from those with cardiovascular disease carried higher levels of choline, betaine, and trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO). All three are breakdown products of lecithin, a dietary fat.

The question then became, ‘How do these people end up with high TMAO levels?’

Then next step showed that feeding mice lecithin or choline promotes the development of atherosclerotic plaque.

But when they gave the mice a dose of antibiotics to wipe out their gut bacteria, even though the researchers fed them a high lecithin and choline diet, the mice produced no TMAO and there was no increase in atherosclerosis.

Chris Woollams, former Oxford University Biochemist said, ”This 2012 study was really exciting news because it not only reinforced the link between diet and heart disease, it showed that it was also about the relationship of the foods in the diet and gut bacteria”.

The next study (2) attempted to see if changing the profile of gut bacteria in the body could affect levels of atherosclerosis.

The gut bacteria feed on carnitine and choline in full cream milk, red meat and egg yolks. From these foods they make Trimethylamine, or TMA. This then passes to the liver to be turned into TMAO.


Finally, they took a natural compound DMB (3,3-dimethyl-1-butanol) and used it, as they put it, to ‘drug’ the gut bacteria. The result was that they made far less TMA.


The sources of DMB, are Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Grapeseed oil.


The study, by Dr. Stanley Hazen and his team went even further and showed that the microbiome can be used to block heart disease.


“Omnivores usually do have higher levels of TMAO than vegetarians and vegans, but not always,” Hazen added. “TMAO level is determined more by your gut microbes than your diet”. 


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  1. http://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/gut-microbes-may-affect-heart-disease-risk

  2. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2015/12/how-gut-bacteria-may-help-curb-heart-disease/