Understanding gut microbes and how they impact metabolism, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity may provide new treatment options.
Trillions of bacteria and other microbes live within our gut. This microbiome is necessary to neutralize by-products of digestion, decrease toxins and carcinogens, and inhibit the growth of unhealthy bacteria and yeast. The microbiome also supports the digestive process, aids in the absorption of nutrients, and produces vitamins B and K.
According to research published in the journal Circulation Research, the microbiome may also play a role in body mass index (BMI) and blood lipid levels (i.e. HDL and triglycerides).
The 893 study participants provided fecal and blood samples. Researchers studied these samples to identify which bacterial sequences were most popular within the microbiome. They found 34 unique bacterial sequences connected to BMI and blood lipid levels.
After factoring in age, gender, and genetics, researchers determined the gut microbiome impacted 4.5% to 6% of the differences seen in triglyceride and HDL levels.According to researchers this is a modest impact and it is not known yet if the microbiome is the sole cause.
This is just a starting point into a whole new area of research that could lead to new treatment options, such as probiotics to alter gut microbiome to lower triglyceride levels or increase HDL cholesterol. High triglycerides increase heart disease risk. High HDL levels tend to be protective against heart disease.
However, at this time, that recommendation is not supported by research. More studies are needed to better define what actually is a healthy microbiome.
We do know diverse microbiomes are desirable, with a lack of diversity potentially increasing disease risks. Studies have suggested modern living may cause decreased diversity.
Current recommendations to promote a healthy microbiome include eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, fish, whole grains, and unprocessed foods. Incorporate foods into your diet that contain gut-friendly bacteria, such as yogurt and fermented foods, like miso, kefir, and sauerkraut.
Your microbiome begins developing at birth. Breastfeeding positively impacts the development of the gut microbiome.
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Lisa Nelson RD, a registered dietitian since 1999, provides clients step-by-step guidance to lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure, so they can live life and enjoy their family for years to come. Because her own health is the foundation of her expertise, you can trust that Lisa will make it truly possible for you to see dramatic changes in your health, without unrealistic fads or impossibly difficult techniques. She can be found on Twitter @lisanelsonrd and Facebook at hearthealthmadeeasy.