Bacteria living in your gut may impact your weight, fat and good cholesterol levels - necessary to help maintain a healthy heart, new research indicates. The study provides new evidence that microbes in the gut are strongly linked to the blood level of HDL (good cholesterol) and triglycerides.
"Gut bacteria may be added as a new risk factor for abnormal blood lipids, in addition to ageing, gender, body mass index (BMI) and genetics," said Jingyuan Fu, associate professor of genetics at University Medical Center Groningen, Netherlands.
Using state-of-the-art deep sequencing technology, researchers studied the association between gut microbes and blood lipid levels in 893 people from Netherlands. They identified 34 different types of bacteria contributed to differences in body fat (BMI) and blood lipids such as triglycerides and the good cholesterol known as high-density lipoprotein or HDL. Gut bacteria contributed to 4.6 percent of the difference in body fat, six percent in triglycerides and four percent in HDL.
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"Surprisingly, gut bacteria had little relationship with bad cholesterol (low-density lipoproteins or LDL ) or total cholesterol levels," Fu noted.
Microbes and humans have a symbiotic relationship. The human body contains trillions of microorganisms, 10 times the number of human cells. These microbes help us to digest food and train our immune system. The bacterial community in the human gut has been referred to as an extra organ because of its important role in an individuals' health.
"As less than 30 percent of bacteria in the human gut have been cultured, we know very little about who they are and what they do. With state-of-art deep sequencing technology, we are now able to identify them," Fu explained.
The findings may open door to new therapies to alter gut bacteria types that contribute to body weight, fat and cholesterol levels. This can further facilitate prevention of heart disease.
The paper appeared in Circulation Research, an American Heart Association journal.