Dutch scientists found that the millions of harmless gut bacteria may influence cholesterol levels and body mass index on the long run.
Scientists explained that there are trillions of microorganisms living in our bodies and on our skin but they aren’t necessarily evil. These bacteria ward off harmful microbes, while those dwelling in our guts help us digest food and metabolize nutrients.
But a recent research paper, which was published in the journal Circulation Research, reveals that gut bacteria may have an important say in overall cholesterol levels.
Jingyuan Fu, lead author of the study and nutrition expert at University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands, said that her team had the idea of conducting a gut bacteria study after sifting through countless of previous studies that had found a link between the microorganisms and obesity or cardiovascular disease.
During their research, scientists analyzed blood and fecal samples from more than 800 volunteers. They also performed DNA tests to find the genetic makeup of the participants’ bacterial bloom in their guts. Tests revealed that there are 34 bacterial strains that can directly influence body mass index (BMI) and cholesterol levels.
After adjusting the findings for age, sex, and family history, researchers noted that bacterial bloom triggered four to six percent of the differences in volunteers’ triglycerides and good cholesterol levels. Triglycerides are often associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, while the good cholesterol (HDL) usually reduces this risk.
But when the team took into account the microbiome when analyzing results they learned that gut bacteria along with sex, age, and family history explain 26 percent of the differences.
The research team now hopes that the findings may help them better understand how gut bacteria can influence metabolism and even lead to serious conditions such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
Dr. Fu explained that a different treatment approach when trying to tackling these diseases could involve targeting gut bacteria with probiotics or prescription drugs.
Nevertheless, the team acknowledged that more research needs to be done before that can happen. But research may be challenging because scientists can replicate in laboratory conditions only 30 percent of gut bacteria, while the rest can only thrive in the human gut. But the team is optimistic about the future. They plant to find methods to isolate the bacteria and insert them into laboratory animals.
When that happens, the team would be able to understand which type of bacteria influences cholesterol and BMI and manipulate them to open a new pathway to better health.
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