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Gut bacteria and probiotics: helpers for heart health
Recent research has deepened our understanding of how general health is affected by our gut bacteria. The gut microbiome (gut flora) not only influences the body's metabolism and immune reactions, but even our mood. The latest findings indicate that intestinal bacteria also play an important role in heart health.
Jennifer L. Pluznick is an assistant professor of physiology at the renowned Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The expert summarizes the latest and most important findings on the subject of intestinal bacteria and heart health.
Gut bacteria actively participate in the metabolism
Pluznick explains that bacteria that live in the intestine are part of normal metabolism. Depending on the food they receive, they produce other chemicals that enter the bloodstream, where they in turn activate certain receptors. Tests on mice have shown that blood pressure can be reduced in a targeted manner. The changes in blood pressure were particularly significant in the mice, which received a certain diet over the entire lifespan.
It remains complicated
The researchers concluded from these results that blood pressure is related to the intestinal bacteria. The exact connections are currently unclear. "We know that there is a symbiotic relationship between intestinal bacteria and their hosts - we are the hosts," emphasizes the intestinal bacteria expert. According to Pluznick, certain chemicals that are produced by intestinal bacteria can change blood pressure.
For example, mice, rats, but also people with high blood pressure had different intestinal bacteria than individuals with normal blood pressure. "But we still don't have enough pieces to put the whole puzzle together," said Pluznick.
Can probiotics and prebiotics lower blood pressure?
Eating foods that contain probiotics - living bacteria - has been associated with healthier blood pressure in previous studies. "Yogurt is the clearest example of a probiotic," explains Pluznick.
While probiotics are relatively well known, many people don't know what prebiotics are. According to Pluznick, prebiotics contain important substances that intestinal bacteria need to produce special chemicals. "For example, fiber can be a prebiotic for many bacteria," explains the expert. When you eat fiber, the bacteria break it down and use it to make chemicals, Pluznick said. It is believed that these chemicals are responsible for lowering blood pressure. High fiber foods are for example
- Wholegrain pasta,
- Sweet potatoes.
Should bowel and heart health be considered together?
Pluznick assumes that in the future the intestinal bacteria will be included in heart health measures. The guidelines for the administration of antibiotics would also have to be reconsidered, since antibiotics have been shown to damage intestinal health.
A lot is still unclear
"We're still a long way from being able to tell you exactly which yogurt to eat to try to lower your blood pressure, but I think providing that kind of information is the long-term hope - to collect all the puzzle pieces and to put it together ”, Pluznick sums up.
Do the findings in mice also apply to humans?
"There can always be differences between the species," emphasizes the assistant professor. Some things cannot be predicted without being tested on humans. "I hope that in the next few years we will see how all these factors and insights apply to people," the expert concluded. (vb)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: The Power of Gut Bacteria and Probiotics for Heart Health (accessed: January 17, 2020), hopkinsmedicine.org