It is no secret that diet has a significant impact on the gut microbiome, which affects the presence of bacterial strains and their numbers. Some bacteria are associated with protective effects, including beneficial changes from mental health to inflammation, weight and even heart health. Plant-based diets have been shown to help strengthen heart-healthy bacteria.
The latest study is published in the Proceedings of the American College of Cardiology; It details the potential benefits to heart health by ingesting a plant-based diet, especially the gut bacteria that link the two. At the heart of the problem is a metabolite called TMAO, which is produced by gut bacteria that break down red meat and other animal products.
The study showed that TMAO was associated with an increased risk of heart disease and heart attack. By eliminating or significantly reducing the number of animal products in the diet, the researchers found that the amount of TMAO produced by gut bacteria also decreased, helping to eliminate the risks associated with metabolites.
The study involved data from 760 women who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study, all of whom provided lifestyle information and blood samples over a decade apart. After narrowing the data, the researchers found that women with coronary heart disease also had higher TMAO in their blood during this period, as well as a family history of poorer diet, higher BMI and heart attacks.
Ultimately, the study found that participants with the largest increase in TMAO levels also had a 67 percent higher risk of coronary heart disease during the study. “Our findings suggest that lowering TMAO levels may help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and suggest that the gut microbiome may be a new area for heart disease prevention,” explained Dr. Lu Qi, M.D., senior author of the study. “