Many studies have revealed a connection between good health and a well-balanced gut. Now, researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder are looking into whether or not changes in our gut microbes—specifically those triggered by aging, diet and lifestyle—may affect heart health as we age.
An upcoming three-part study involving mice and human participants will explore how healthy arteries are influenced by the bacterial population in the digestive tract, and whether or not changes in gut microbiota brought on by age and other factors may increase the risk of developing heart disease by causing artery stiffness and damage.
“We believe the altered chemicals produced by gut bacteria with aging move from inside the intestines through a ‘leaky gut’ wall—also caused by aging—and enter the bloodstream,” said postdoctoral fellow Vienna Brunt, who will help lead the study. “Then they circulate and interact with the walls of the arteries to cause oxidative stress, inflammation and arterial dysfunction.”
Oxidative stress and inflammation have also been linked to a typical “Western” diet, another factor known to affect bacterial diversity in the gut. Ultimately, researchers hope to develop ways to improve cardiovascular health by supporting the growth of friendly bacteria in the digestive tract.