Wednesday 20 June 2018

Correlation between arterial stiffness and the microbiome?

A substantial proportion of cardiovascular disorders cannot be explained by traditional risk factors. British researchers therefore asked themselves the question whether the intestinal microbiome might perhaps have something to do with that. 

Reduced quality or quantity of the intestinal microbiome -the micro-organisms in our intestine – is more commonly linked to various health problems, including diabetes, obesity and inflammatory gastroenterological diseases. Possibly because the intestinal microbiome is an important regulator of oxidative stress, inflammation, glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity. 

Conversely, arterial stiffness – a pathologically worsening structure and function of the  arteries – demonstrates a positive correlation with chronic hyperglycaemia, hyperinsulinemia, adipokine levels and systemic inflammation. Furthermore, it is found to be related to the cardiovascular risk in especially younger people and women, whilst traditional risk factors, such as obesity and smoking are less applicable to them. These correlations appear to signal a regulation of the problems that lead to arterial stiffness through a healthy intestinal microbiome. But what does this actually mean?



Experts at the University of Nottingham and King's College in London studied the phenomenon in greater detail. The medical data of a group of 617 adult female middle-aged twins were analysed. The results of pulse wave velocity, a measure of arterial stiffness, were compared to data concerning the composition of their intestinal microbiome. In addition, the role of metabolites that has already been linked to cardiovascular disease and the metabolic syndrome were investigated.



In all women there was a significant correlation between the diversity of the microbes in the intestine and the health of the arteries. Also after correction for metabolic variations and blood pressure, the degree of arterial stiffness was higher in women with a more limited intestinal microbiome. The specific microbes that were linked to a lower risk of arterial stiffening had, in the past, been associated with a lower risk of obesity.



It was proven for the first time that intestinal bacteria and their metabolites are associated with lower arterial stiffness. This suggests that focussing on improving the intestinal microbiome through diet, exercise and probiotics may be a way of reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, analysis of the intestinal microbiome can be used to diagnose the risk of heart conditions.



Menni C, Lin Ch, Cecelja M, Mangino M, Matey-Hernandez ML, Keehn L, Mohney RP, Steves CJ, Spector TD, Kuo C-F, Chowienczyk Ph, Valdes AM; Gut microbial diversity is associated with lower arterial stiffness in women, European Heart Journal, ehy226,