Saturday, May 21, 2011
Hmmmmmm. this just makes me think about how all our organs are connected and the health and state of functioning of one organ, will impact the working of another. Just the way a machine would work.
Stanley Hazen, MD, PhD, and Zeneng Wang, PhD,Cell Biology, and colleagues at the Lerner Research Institute have discovered a new pathway that links a common dietary lipid and gut flora (microbes that reside in intestines) to the development of cardiovascular disease (CVD). This research was published in the April 8, 2011, issue of Nature.
Aside from genetic factors that increase a person's risk of CVD,environmental factors can also influence the disease. Familiar environmental factors include a diet rich in triglycerides and sterols (ex. cholesterol), which are two of the three main types dietary lipids. This current study discovered the importance of the third category of dietary lipids called "phospholipids" to heart disease.
Dr. Hazen's group looked at the interplay of dietary phospholipid, namely phosphatidyl choline (also called lecithin) and another category of environmental factors called microbes that reside in intestines. These gut flora play a largely beneficial role, promoting digestion and absorption of important nutrients. They do this by breaking down the food we eat into its byproducts, or metabolites. However, this study of over 2000 patients found that blood levels of three metabolites of lecithin (choline, trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), and betaine) strongly associated with risk of CVD. Feeding these metabolites to mice also caused atherosclerosis.
Healthy amounts of choline, TMAO, and betaine, are found in many fruits, vegetables, fish, and animal and dairy products. These three metabolites are also commonly marketed as direct-to-consumer supplements, supposedly offering increased brain health, weight loss, and/or muscle growth.
Choline is itself a natural semi-essential vitamin, although Hazen's group shows that when taken to excess, it promotes atherosclerotic heart disease in animal models, and associates with increased CVD risk in humans. "Over the past few years we have seen a huge increase in the addition of choline into multivitamins – even those marketed to our children – yet it is this same substance that our study shows the gut flora can convert into something that has a direct, negative impact on heart disease risk by forming an atherosclerosis-causing by-product," says Dr. Hazen.
"Knowing that gut flora generates a pro-atherosclerotic metabolite from a common dietary lipid opens up new opportunities for improved diagnostics, prevention, and treatment of heart disease, adds Dr. Hazen. "It also appears there is a need for considering the risk versus benefits of some commonly used supplements."