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Lack of diversity in gut microbiome may increase the risk of heart failure © Getty Images
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Lack of diversity in gut microbiome may increase the risk of heart failure

Published: 21st June, 2022 at 01:00
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Compounds produced in our guts after eating dairy, eggs and red meat can also raise the risk.

The gut microbiome is a delicately balanced community of trillions of bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa that live in our gastrointestinal tracts and outnumbers all the other cells in our bodies put together. It is known to have a major influence on our metabolism, weight, immune system and mood.


Now, a review of seven years of research carried out at Georgetown University School of Nursing & Health has found having less biodiversity in our guts is linked to a greater risk of death due to heart disease.

The study also found that the presence of trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO), a compound produced by gut microbiota when we eat full-fat dairy products, egg yolks and red meat, can increase the risk.

To make the finding, the team reviewed more than 500 genetic and pharmacological studies published between 2014 and 2021 that associated the microbiome with heart failure, whittled them down to the 30 that were most relevant and then analysed the combined findings.

“To diagnose and manage heart failure we rely on certain findings and test results, but we do not know how poor heart function influences the activities of the gut, including the absorption of food and medications,” said co-author Prof Kelley Anderson.

“There is now an appreciation of a back-and-forth relationship between the heart and elements in the gut, as clearly the heart and vascular system do not work in isolation -- the health of one system can directly influence the other, but clear connections are still being worked out scientifically.”

According to the British Heart Foundation, heart and circulatory diseases are currently responsible for one quarter of all deaths in the UK - that’s 160,000 deaths every year.

The team now plan to carry out a follow-up study to further investigate the connection between the gut microbiome and cardiovascular disease in contemporary patients.

“We are currently developing a forward-looking study to evaluate the microbiome in patients with heart failure. We are particularly interested in the symptomatic experience of patients with end-stage heart failure as well as disease-related weight loss and wasting during this stage of cardiovascular disease,” said Anderson.

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Jason Goodyer
Jason GoodyerCommissioning editor, BBC Science Focus

Jason is the commissioning editor for BBC Science Focus. He holds an MSc in physics and was named Section Editor of the Year by the British Society of Magazine Editors in 2019. He has been reporting on science and technology for more than a decade. During this time, he's walked the tunnels of the Large Hadron Collider, watched Stephen Hawking deliver his Reith Lecture on Black Holes and reported on everything from simulation universes to dancing cockatoos. He looks after the magazine’s and website’s news sections and makes regular appearances on the Instant Genius Podcast.


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