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Diets rich in fiber have long been associated with an array of positive outcomes, chief among them healthy hearts and arteries protected from the ravages of atherosclerosis, the accumulation of fatty plaques linked to heart attacks and strokes.
Figuring out just how the fiber we eat manages to protect our heart, however, has been challenging.
Clue - Revolution - Effect - Community - Guts
One clue has come from the revolution in understanding the effect the diverse microbial community that populates our guts has on our health. Our microbiome helps us process our food, particularly fiber. Perhaps these beneficial microbes somehow turned indigestible plant parts into heart health. But the link was uncertain.
In support of a microbial connection between fiber and heart health, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have identified a particular fatty acid as the mechanism behind certain protective effects of a high-fiber diet in a mouse model. Known as butyrate, this fatty acid is produced by certain bacteria in the gut as they digest plant fiber.
Scientists - Mice - Bacteria - Roseburia - Diet
The scientists showed that mice that harbored the butyrate-producing bacteria Roseburia and that also ate a high-fiber diet suffered from less atherosclerosis and had reduced inflammation compared to mice without the bacteria. Mice that hosted Roseburia but that ate a low-fiber diet were not protected, because without fiber the bacteria produced little butyrate.
Mice fed a slow-release form of butyrate itself were also protected from atherosclerosis, pointing to the molecule as a key arbiter of the fiber-heart link.
Study - Nature - Microbiology - UW-Madison - Professor
The study was published recently in the journal Nature Microbiology by UW-Madison Professor of Bacteriology Federico Rey and postdoctoral researcher Kazuyuki Kasahara with collaborators at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.
"Atherosclerosis has historically been considered a disease of lipid metabolism," says Rey, noting that controlling the disease has usually focused on lowering the levels of...
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