How the bugs in your gut could affect your blood vessels

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THE larger the variety of microbes you have in your gut, the healthier your blood vessels are, a new study sug-gests. Researchers found that people with a more diverse microbiome had lower odds of developing atherosclero-sis, which is a hardening of the arteries — a condition that’s associated with heart attacks and strokes.
The study, published May 10 in the European Heart Journal, is the first to point to a direct connection between the gut microbiome and cardiovascular health. The study found only a connection between the two, however; it didn’t prove cause and effect.
The gut microbiome — an enormous collection of bacteria, yeast, viruses and other types of microorganisms living in people’s digestive tract — has attracted significant scientific attention in the past several years. And pre-vious research has found that a lack of diversity in a person’s so-called “good” gut microbes could be linked to the development of various ailments, said senior study author Ana Valdes, an associate professor of medicine and health sciences at the University of Nottingham School of Medicine in England.
A number of diseases — and, in particular, inflammation-related conditions — are linked to low microbiome diversity, Valdes told Live Science. The link with “gut diseases, such as the inflammatory bowel disease, are quite obvious,” but low microbiome diversity has also been found to be connected to conditions such as arthritis, psoria-sis, eczema and allergies, she said.
Type 2 diabetes, obesity and weight gain also appear to be linked to a poor selection of gut bugs, Valdes said. Because these conditions are known risk factors for heart disease, Valdes and her colleagues wanted to determine whether low microbiome diversity was directly linked to poor heart health, or if it instead was linked to type 2 diabetes, obesity and weight, which, in turn, are tied to poor heart health.
To study the link, the researchers asked more than 600 middle-age female twins from the TwinsUK registry to donate stool and blood samples. In addition, the researchers measured the blood vessel stiffness of the participants, to assess the degree of atherosclerosis. (Valdes cautioned that because the study looked only at British women and included no men or representatives of other countries, it’s unclear whether the results apply to other groups.)
The stool and blood samples provided the researchers with information about each person’s microbiome diver-sity. These results were then compared with the blood-vessel-stiffness measurements.

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