The gut microbiome is a “delicately balanced” ecosystem, comprised primarily of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa. The microbiome can also affect cardiovascular disease, which remains the leading cause of death in wealthy countries. Here, the microbiota is associated with heart failure, which is often the end stage of progressive cardiovascular disease.
A back-and-forth relationship between the heart and gut
The American team analyzes here 7 years of genetic, pharmacological and other research data, conducted around the world, to decipher the processes by which the microbiome can influence the development of heart failure. In particular, the researchers are focusing on a harmful metabolite, trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), which can be produced by the churning of the gut microbiota when consuming whole dairy products, egg yolks and red meat. Indeed, the metabolite has already been documented to be involved in certain heart conditions.
Lead author Kelley Anderson, associate professor of nursing at Georgetown describes “a back-and-forth relationship between the heart and the gut”for it is clear that the heart and the vascular system do not each function in isolation, and “The health of one system can directly influence the other, although their connections remain to be better understood”.
The meta-analysis of 511 studies, published between 2014 and 2021, focusing on the relationship between the microbiome and heart failure, then the selection of the 30 most relevant studies, in particular those carried out using the latest genetic sequencing techniques, sheds light the gut/heart relationship:
- if the direct effects of diet on the interaction between the microbiome and the cardiovascular system cannot be clearly defined, due to a lack of hard data;
- nutrition is confirmed as a major factor in overall cardiovascular health,
- taking antibiotics, prebiotics and probiotics also has an indisputable and undisputed impact on the microbiome,
- a reduced diversity of the microbiota is significantly associated with the risk of heart attack, hospitalization and death from cardiovascular causes.
The team has just launched a prospective study to assess the microbiome in patients with heart failure, with particular attention to the nutritional, microbiotic and metabolic symptoms of patients with end-stage heart failure.