New study finds that bacterial guests in our digestive tract calm the immune cells that drive up blood pressure. The findings of the study are published in the journal Circulation.
To a large extent, our well-being depends on what bacterial guests in our digestive tract consume as researchers have found that beneficial gut microbes can produce from dietary fiber a fatty acid called propionate which can protect against the harmful consequences of high blood pressure.
"Propionate works against a range of impairments in cardiovascular function caused by high blood pressure," said lead researcher Dominik Muller, Professor at Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association in Berlin, Germany.
The results explain why a diet rich in fiber, which has been recommended by nutrition organizations for many years, helps prevent cardiovascular diseases.
Whole-grain products and fruits, for example, contain cellulose and inulin fibers, from which gut bacteria produce beneficial molecules like propionate.
For the study, the researchers fed propionate to mice with elevated blood pressure. Afterward, the animals had less pronounced damage to the heart or abnormal enlargement of the organ, making them less susceptible to cardiac arrhythmia.
Vascular damage, such as atherosclerosis, also decreased in mice, the study said.