CLEVELAND, Dec. 17 (UPI) -- Reducing levels of a byproduct produced by bacteria in the gut while breaking down animal fats may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a new study.
Bacteria in the gut are essential not only to the breakdown of food, but also for regulation of certain processes in the body.
Researchers at Cleveland Clinic found a substance can prevent microbes from converting the nutrients choline, lecithin and carnitine, all of which are produced during the breakdown of animal fats in the gut, into trimethylamine N-oxide, or TMAO, and thus reduce atherosclerosis.
"We were able to show that drugging the microbiome is an effective way to block this type of diet-induced heart disease," said Dr. Stanley Hazen, a researcher at the Cleveland Clinic, in a press release. "The inhibitor prevents formation of a waste product produced by gut microbes, leading to lowering of TMAO levels and prevention of diet-dependent atherosclerosis. This is much like how we use statins to inhibit cholesterol synthesis in human cells."
The researchers gave 3,3-dimethyl-1-butanol, or DMB, to mice that were fed a high choline or carnitine diet, finding the rodents had less TMAO and developed less atherosclerosis.
"Many chronic diseases like atherosclerosis, obesity and diabetes are linked to gut microbes," Hazen said. "These studies demonstrate the exciting possibility that we can prevent or retard the progression of diet-induced heart diseases starting in the gut. This opens the door in the future for new types of therapies for atherosclerosis, as well as other metabolic diseases."
The study is published in the journal Cell.