Researchers at the University of Nottingham and King's College London, both in the United Kingdom, have discovered a link between “good” bacteria in the digestive tract – the gut microbiome – and hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), an indicator of cardiovascular disease.
Several recent studies suggest that the gut microbiome plays an important role in health, affecting metabolism as well as the immune system. An imbalance in healthy gut bacteria has been associated with inflammation in the body and an increased risk for diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, and other medical conditions.
For this study, which was published in the European Heart Journal, researchers looked at data involving 617 middle-aged female twins from the TwinsUK registry, a national database. They analyzed gut microbiome composition and measured arterial stiffness using carotid-femoral pulse-wave velocity – the gold standard for measuring blood vessel health. After adjusting for other factors, the researchers found increased hardening of the arteries in women with a lower diversity of healthy gut bacteria.