Blocking heart disease: Drug the bugs!

Published: Feb. 22, 2016 at 12:57 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 22, 2016 at 10:56 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CLEVELAND (Ivanhoe Newswire/WTVM) -- Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the U.S. It accounts for one in four deaths. Scientists are searching for ways to save hearts and lives, and the newest research has them focusing on the gut.

Tricia Slimbarski eats right, exercises and reads as much as she can about healthy living, but it wasn't always this way.

Slimbarski says, "Food controlled my whole life. I ate a lot of meat and fried food, burgers, hot dogs."

After a diagnosis of type-two diabetes, high blood pressure and six blockages in her heart, Slimbarski knew it was time for a change.

Soon, doctors at the Cleveland Clinic may be able to help people like Slimbarski reduce their risk of heart disease by focusing on bacteria in the gut.

Stanley Hazen, MD, PhD, Section Head of Preventative Cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic says, "Inside our intestines, we have bacteria, we call these gut microbes."

Scientists found a specific gut metabolite known as TMAO that is linked to heart disease. They created a compound that reduces levels of TMAO and blocks the development of heart disease in mice.

Dr. Hazen says, "I think that's the most exciting aspect of this, we can actually drug the bugs if you will, and treat the host and prevent disease."

Later, researchers discovered their compound is actually a natural product that's also found in olive oil, grapeseed oil, and some vinegar.

That's good news for Slimbarski who's always looking for ways to improve her heart health. She used to take eight pills a day, but since making dietary changes, "Now, I'm down to two pills a day!" she says, and feeling better than ever!

Researchers say it may be several years before their compound is available for use in humans, but you might get some of the same benefits by following a heart-healthy diet that includes olive oil or grapeseed oil. Recent clinical studies show the Mediterranean diet can reduce risk of cardiac disease by 30 percent.

Copyright 2016 WTVM. All Rights Reserved.