From Dr. Mercola:
It’s becoming relatively common knowledge that your health is not just about your body, but rather is the result of its symbiotic relationship with 100 trillion bacteria and other microorganisms.
Your microbiome is unique to you, like a fingerprint, and represents a combination of lifestyle factors, genetics, environment, and more.
Your gut microbiome influences your immune responses and nervous system functioning, and plays a role in the development of a number of diseases, including obesity, cancer and heart disease.
In the latter case, research has emerged that bacteria in your gut may play an integral role in the formation of fatty deposits on your arteries, leading to atherosclerosis (hardening of your arteries).
Perhaps even more remarkable, now researchers have also figured out a way to stop the process.
Targeting Gut Microbes to Prevent Heart Disease
Research by physician Stanley Hazen of the Cleveland Clinic and colleagues has shown that certain bacteria in your gut can transform choline (found in meat and eggs) and other dietary nutrients into trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), which slows the breakdown of cholesterol.
The higher your TMAO levels become, the more fatty plaques may collect in your arteries, which may promote atherosclerosis and other heart problems.
As The Atlantic recently reported, Dr. Hazen’s colleague Zeneng Wang discovered that the chemical 3,3-dimethyl-1-butanol (DMB) prevents gut microbes from turning choline into trimethylamine (TMA), thereby lowering the risk of heart problems.1,2
DMB is a choline-like compound that works by “gumming up” the enzymes required by the bacteria to digest choline, which stops TMA production. According to The Atlantic:3
“It takes two to TMAO: Bacteria first transform choline into TMA, before an enzyme from the host animal changes TMA into TMAO. At first, Hazen’s team tried to prevent the second part of this chain by blocking the animal enzyme.
They succeeded, lowering TMAO levels in mice and making them resistant to atherosclerosis. But there was just one problem: disabling the enzyme leads to a build-up of TMA, which doesn’t harm the heart but does smell of rotting fish.”
By targeting gut microbes with DMB, the mice, which were bred to be vulnerable to atherosclerosis, produced less TMAO even when fed a choline-rich diet. They also had fewer signs of the condition. As written in Cell:4
“The present studies suggest that targeting gut microbial production of TMA specifically and non-lethal microbial inhibitors in general may serve as a potential therapeutic approach for the treatment of cardiometabolic diseases.”
Your Gut Microbes Might Be One Reason Why Eating Red Meat Is Linked to Heart Disease
Your gut bacteria can also metabolize L-carnitine, a substance found in red meat, eggs, and other foods, and in so doing produce TMAO.
Interestingly, people with diets high in L-carnitine, i.e. meat eaters, had a gut microbe composition that was more prone to forming TMAO, while vegetarians and vegans did not.
Even after consuming large amounts of L-carnitine in a steak or supplement, the vegetarians and vegans in the study did not