Doctors monitor cholesterol levels to prevent cardiovascular disease—but they should switch their focus to the gut. A sudden loss of bacteria in the gut triggers heart failure, new research has found this week.
Pharmaceutical drugs and diseases such as type 2 diabetes can alter the bacteria in the gut, known as the gut microbiome, and so too can a change to the diet—such as when a vegetarian starts eating meat—which can alter the composition of bacteria within three days.
Researchers from University Hospital Schleswig-Holstein discovered the link between gut bacteria and heart health when they examined stool samples of healthy people and patients who've suffered heart failure.
Both groups had similar diets, and yet the heart patients had "significantly lower" levels of specific families of bacteria that control inflammation.
Changes to gut bacteria could be an early marker of heart failure, the researchers say. Their discoveries are supported by earlier research that had suggested that TMAO (trimethylamine N-oxide), a metabolic product of gut bacteria, was a risk factor for fatal heart failure.
But now it seems to be the bacteria itself that creates the risk.