Scientists discover an unexpected connection between gut and heart health

One of the hottest (and most controversial) health trends is the ketogenic diet.

Keto is widely adopted and revolves around a high-fat, low-carb, and high-protein type of diet. However, many scientists are skeptical of the diet, arguing that its disadvantages outweigh its advantages.

A study published Friday in the journal Science reiterates the main argument against keto: a high-fat diet can lead to long-term health problems.

The study team examined the connection between a high-fat diet and heart disease and found that gut bacteria can influence this connection. We can control these intervening factors by moderating the amount of fat in our diet.

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Why it’s a hack – When you are on a high fat diet, a couple of things happen:

First, the diet increases intestinal inflammation and damages intestinal cells. At the same time, diet can affect the mitochondria of the intestinal cells (the cell’s powerhouse), causing these cells to produce more oxygen and nitrate.

Oxygen and nitrate stimulate two things: the reproduction of harmful bacteria such as E. coli and the production of the metabolite TMA (trimethylamine). The liver then converts TMA to TMAO (trimethylamine-N-oxide). TMAO can increase the relative risk of death, especially with heart disease.

The inflamed, weakened bowel allows TMAO to travel to the heart, where it builds up as plaque in the arteries and restricts blood flow.

The bottom line is that you can avoid this process – the inflammation, the harmful bacteria, the excess TMAO – through a balanced diet.

The acclaimed keto diet, for example, has been shown to carry the risk of heart disease. Red meat can be a big part of keto, and red meat is high in choline – a nutrient that is converted into TMA (and then TMAO).

Science in Action – The study team looked at three different but related factors in the mice:

  • Changes in the lining of the intestine
  • Mitochondrial dysfunction
  • Effects of a high fat diet on E. coli growth

The researchers began by raising mice on a high-fat diet. Then they introduced E. coli into the mice’s systems to make their intestines resemble the human intestine.

As a result, the high-fat diet led to intestinal inflammation and damaged intestinal cells. The E. coli in the mice bloomed from all of the extra oxygen and nitrate.

These three factors – bowel inflammation, dysfunctional mitochondria, and harmful bacteria – all contribute to increasing your risk of heart disease.

How This Affects Longevity – You’ve probably heard that high fat diets aren’t the best, but this study provides a new reason for it.

It has been proven that a high-fat diet can lead to obesity, which in turn can lead to a range of health conditions, from diabetes to an increased risk of heart attack. This study tells us how fat affects our individual cells and how they function.

Previously, this study team found that the relationship between cells that line the gut and gut microbes enables a healthy microbiome. It is now known that a high-fat diet can disrupt this relationship by encouraging the growth of “bad” microbes.

A study in mice included in this study found that a drug called 5-aminosalicylic acid, which is typically used to treat bowel disease, might prevent the diet-induced adverse reaction.

While the study team hopes to use this information to develop a similarly successful therapeutic for humans, the best solution right now depends on what we eat.

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