Science Update

Recent Review Investigates Potential Link Between Cardiovascular Health, Inflammation, and the Gut Microbiome

The gut-heart axis refers to the relationship between the gut microbiome and cardiovascular health. The body’s inflammatory response is believed to be an important factor in the gut-heart axis. A recently published review by Wang and colleagues explores the potential link between cardiovascular function, the inflammatory response, and the gut microbiome.

Evidence suggests that gut microbial composition may play a role in some factors related to chronic inflammation and cardiovascular health. Recent research has linked decreases in intestinal epithelial barrier health and gut microbial imbalances with certain changes related to cardiovascular function. A metagenomic analysis reported significant differences in gut microbial composition when comparing fecal samples from individuals with chronic heart failure to those from a control group.

In addition, changes in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-c) levels in the bloodstream have been related to the formation of plaques associated with the etiology of certain cardiovascular diseases. Recent research has observed increases in LDL-c levels and certain markers related to the inflammatory response concurrent with increases in Bacteroides fragilis (B. fragilis) levels. Increased levels of B. fragilis have also been associated with decreases in Lactobacilli and increases in Desulfovibrionaceae. The Desulfovibrionaceae family has been associated with deleterious changes in glucose and lipid metabolism.

Metabolites from microbes in the gastrointestinal tract may also influence the inflammatory response and cardiovascular health. Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) such as butyrate and propionate have been shown to help support intestinal mucosal immunity and the inflammatory response. An animal study observed increases in colonic Treg cells and factors related to a normal inflammatory response in mice with diets fortified with butyrate and propionate.

Decreased levels of SCFAs have been associated with age-related changes and increases in certain parameters related to some cardiovascular diseases. Certain molecules have been shown in recent research to help support gut microbial balance, the increase of SCFA levels, and the reduction of inflammatory cytokines, such as interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-6, and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α). Some plant polysaccharides have been shown to help support the variety of symbiotic bacteria and help inhibit the growth of some opportunistic microbes.

Research indicates that certain probiotics may help support the inflammatory response, cardiovascular function, and intestinal barrier integrity. In an animal study, the addition of Bifidobacteria infantis to a Western-style diet was shown to help reduce levels of TNF-α, IL-6, and certain factors related to neuroinflammation. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels were shown to have increased in the nervous system. Neuroinflammation is believed to contribute to increased sympathetic activity and may be related to neurogenic hypertension.

More research is needed, particularly in the clinical setting, but evidence suggests that there may be a link between gut microbial health, cardiovascular function, and the inflammatory response. Some nutrients and probiotics may help support certain aspects of cardiovascular and gut health and may help promote a normal inflammatory response along with healthy aging.

By Dr. C Ambrose, ND, MAT