Gut Bugs May Affect Body Fat, ‘Good’ Cholesterol Levels

Gut Bugs May Affect Body Fat, ‘Good’ Cholesterol

By Amy Norton

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Sept. 10, 2015 (HealthDay News) — The size of your waistline may depend to some degree on the specific bacteria dwelling within your gut, new research suggests.

The study, of nearly 900 Dutch adults, found that certain gut bacteria might help determine not only body fat levels, but also blood concentrations of HDL cholesterol and triglycerides.

HDL is the “good” cholesterol that helps maintain a healthy heart; triglycerides are another type of blood fat that, in excess, can contribute to heart disease.

This is the first study to offer “solid evidence” that gut bacteria are linked to cholesterol and triglyceride levels, said lead researcher Jingyuan Fu.

But it does not prove that the bacteria directly alter people’s blood fats, stressed Fu, an associate professor of genetics at University Medical Center Groningen, in the Netherlands.

So it’s too early to recommend probiotic supplements for heart disease prevention, experts said. However, the findings add to growing evidence that the intestinal microbiome plays an important role in human health.

The term “microbiome” refers to the trillions of bacteria and other microbes that naturally dwell in the gut.

As recent research has revealed, those bugs do much more than support good digestion: They aid in everything from immune function, to metabolizing drugs to producing vitamins, anti-inflammatory compounds and even chemicals that relay messages among brain cells.

Studies have also suggested that when the microbiome lacks diversity, that may contribute to health conditions such as obesity, asthma and type 1 diabetes.

This latest study “contributes important information to our understanding of the gut microbiome and health risks, in particular cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. Lea Chen, a gastroenterologist and microbiome researcher at NYU Langone Medical Center, in New York City.

The findings, published online Sept. 10 in the journal Circulation Research, are based on 893 adults ranging in age from 18 to 80. Fu’s team analyzed fecal samples to get a snapshot of each person’s intestinal microbiome.

Overall, the researchers found 34 types of bacteria that were associated with people’s triglycerides and HDL levels, and with body mass index (BMI) — a measure of weight in relation to height.

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