A first-of-a-kind drug that interferes with the metabolic activity of gut microbes could one day treat heart disease in humans, according to the mouse study. Dietary supplementation with a compound that is naturally abundant in red wine and olive oil prevented gut microbes from turning unhealthy foods into metabolic byproducts that clog arteries.
The findings suggest that a Mediterranean diet exerts its beneficial health effects by altering the activity of gut microbes. If replicated in humans, the study could lead to a new strategy for treating and possibly preventing heart disease and stroke the top two causes of death worldwide.
This study shows for the first time that one can target a gut microbial pathway to inhibit atherosclerosis, says senior author Stanley Hazen of the Cleveland Clinic, adding that this new approach opens the door to the concept of drugging the microbiome to affect a therapeutic benefit in the host.
Atherosclerosis, commonly known as hardening of the arteries, has been linked to the consumption of high amounts of nutrients such as choline and carnitine, which are abundant in foods such as meat, egg yolks, and high-fat dairy products.
The study appears in Cell.