Your Gut Bacteria May Forecast Your Heart Health, Study Finds

Could a new diagnostic tool for your heart come from a stool sample?
By on 09/17/2020 2:00 PM

Source: MedicineNet Health News

Could a new diagnostic tool for your heart come from a stool sample? A large new study suggests it may someday be possible to skip complex and expensive heart diagnostics in favor of a simple fecal swab.

Studying nearly 1,000 samples from the American Gut Project, researchers found distinct biome patterns in people with cardiovascular disease, as reported this month in Hypertension, an American Heart Association medical journal.

“Gut microbiota has a profound effect on cardiovascular function, and this could be a potential new strategy for evaluation of cardiovascular health,” study director Bina Joe, Ph.D., FAHA said in a statement.

What Is Cardiovascular Disease?

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is an umbrella term for various heart and circulation health problems. It includes stroke, heart disease, and heart defects present at birth, according to the NIH.

CVD is the leading cause of death in the United States, writes MedicineNet medical author , and is responsible for one in three deaths in the US.

Dr. Wedro says your odds of developing CVD go up with smoking, high cholesterol in your blood, and untreated hypertension and diabetes.

In CVD, heart inflammation can lead to cholesterol settling into inflamed arteries, forming plaque, Dr. Wedro explains. As the plaque grows, the diameter of an artery narrows, which can eventually cut off blood to the heart, potentially leading to a heart attack.

Machine Learning for Research

This new study builds from the research of previous scientists that showed a relationship between CVD and the gut biome.

Gut bacterial colonies vary from person to person based on many factors, including diet and health. These differences have suggested paths of research to help people with major depressive disorder, joint inflammation, and several other conditions.

But the science behind these methods is young. Most recommendations gleaned from microbiome observations require additional research before they come into wider clinical practice.

The study's scientists harnessed the power of machine learning to beef up the statistical strength of their approach. Machine learning uses computers that improve data collection as they are used. These computers sift through mountains of data, often to recognize patterns like in this study.

AI tools are well-suited to microbiome research; each human has potentially tens of thousands of species of bacteria and other microbes in their guts, and the makeup of the microbiome varies wildly from person to person. Machine learning can crunch this information in a fraction of the time it would take a team of human researchers.

This study examined the various microbes found in samples of about 1,000 volunteers, roughly half of whom had CVD. Study authors found that people with CVD exhibited certain types of bacteria more often in their guts, including:

  • Bacteroides
  • Clostridium
  • Megasphaera
  • Acidaminococcus
  • Listeria

On the other hand, people without CVD were found to be more abundant in other microbes, including these:

  • Faecalibacterium
  • Ruminococcus
  • Proteus
  • Alistipes
  • Neisseria

Although other studies have suggested that changing your gut biome may be protective against some diseases, this study makes no such claims. Instead the authors use their data to suggest future screening options for CVD.

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