The bacteria that live in our gut and play critical roles in our health change according to the foods we eat. Trillions of microbes live in your intestinal tract, and this collection of microbes is called the gut microbiota. It contains 100-times more genes than the rest of your body, and they have a striking impact on your cardiovascular health. This connection is a key example of the brain-gut relationship.
Researchers are discovering an increasing amount of evidence that the gut microbiome has a role in a person’s overall health and chances of developing any disease. So far, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and metabolic syndrome are a few of the conditions that epitomize the impact of gut microbiome interactions. All three have a crucial role in cardiovascular health.
Some of the most credible evidence that demonstrates a link between the microbiome and cardiovascular health involves a substance called trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO). Trimethylamine-N-oxide is the compound made by the liver after bacteria in the intestinal tract digest certain nutrients such as L-carnitine, lecithin, and choline. These nutrients are found in foods like fish, eggs, meat, and dairy.
When you eat more of these foods, your body produces more TMAO. Higher levels of TMAO are linked with hardening of the arteries, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, colon cancer, and an increased risk of cardiovascular events. In addition, there are links between the composition of the microbiome and various risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as impaired metabolism, inflammation, and high blood pressure.
The relationship between TMAO and cardiovascular risk caught the attention of more scientists, and now experts are exploring new ways to test for this substance in the blood to help predict future risk of stroke, heart attack, and death among people who otherwise appear to be healthy.
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