A Possible Link Between That “Gut Feeling” and Heart Disease

Let’s face it- this #COVID19 pandemic has found us seesawing between embracing extra workouts and healthier homemade meals to lamenting over those extra pounds from those sourdough starters. Many of us can use a jump start to reclaim our #hearthealthy goals. #AHA20 has provided us a captivating session on the link between diet, the gut microbiome, and cardiovascular disease.

Drs. Katherine Tucker, Wilson Tang, and Caroline Genko presented the basics of how the quality of our diet affects the diversity of bacteria and level of systemic inflammation in the body, the role of the TMAO pathway in atherosclerosis, and how oral pathogens can affect both atherosclerosis and the gut microbiome:

SCIENCE: Epigenetics alter the transcription of genes through modification (DNA methylation, histone modification, and miRNAs). These processes can be affected by stress, diet, and the microbiome.

TAKEAWAY: We have some control over the expression of our genes if we adhere to healthy lifestyle changes that improve our stress, sleep, diet, and physical activity.

SCIENCE: Gut bacteria metabolize indigestible fibers into short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) which have been associated with the prevention of chronic disease and are also important for muscle function.

TAKEAWAY: Continue eating more plants and whole grains to prevent heart disease and other chronic diseases.

SCIENCE: Animal-based diets increase bile-tolerant microorganisms that are responsible for pro-inflammatory pathways.

TAKEAWAY: Limit animal meat (especially red meat) to decrease the amount of inflammation in your body. Inflammation = heart disease!

SCIENCE: The more highly processed the diet is, the higher the risk of CV disease even after multivariable adjustment.

TAKEAWAY: Limit the middle aisles of your grocery store and go rogue on the perimeter aisles, which should be abundant in perishables (fruits and vegetables) and freshly baked whole grains.

SCIENCE: Increased TMAO levels are associated with atherosclerosis and are only one of the many pathways involved in the link between the gut and CV disease. Red meat is associated with elevated TMAO levels. There is also unique crosstalk between organs, with reduced excretion of TMAO by the kidneys with increased consumption of red meat. Lastly, caloric restriction and intermittent fasting have been associated with decreased levels of TMAO.

TAKEAWAY: As above, another reason to limit or avoid red meat!

SCIENCE: Animal studies showed those fed a Western diet and infected with P. gingivalis (oral pathogenic bacteria) had accelerated atherosclerosis. The gut microbiome composition was also affected by P. gingivalis infection.

TAKEAWAY: Be sure to take care of your oral health and see your dentist regularly for cleanings to help prevent cardiovascular disease.

After reading this, I hope you all reconsider how you think about going with your “gut” when deciding on your next meal.

Eat well, be well, and be safe. And keep posting #PetsofAHA20.



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