Plant-based diets have long been recommended to patients who have had heart attacks or other heart problems. In recent years, we have started seeing more and more concrete evidence suggesting that plant-based diets truly are beneficial for improving cardiovascular health.
The reason for this seems to lie in the gut microbiome. We’ve known for a long time that your diet can impact the bacteria in your gut. Thanks to a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, we are now learning that those impacts on gut bacteria can actually help keep your heart healthy.
Plant-Based Diets for Heart Health
Your body’s gut microbiome is made up of myriad microbes that play a key role in your nutrient absorption, metabolism, energy levels, and immune response. While each of these microbes can impact different aspects of your health, this latest study focused on just one: a gut microbiota-related metabolite known as trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO). TMAO is produced when your gut bacteria digests nutrients that are typically found in animal products, such as red meat.
According to the recent study, the presence of TMAO in the gut microbiome has been linked to an increased risk of developing heart disease and suffering from a heart attack. The big breakthrough that came from this research was that when the number of animal products in a person’s diet were greatly reduced or fully eliminated, the amount of TMAO produced by gut bacteria was also reduced. This, in turn, reduced the health risks associated with the presence of TMAO and reduced the likelihood that the participants would develop cardiovascular disease.
To get these findings, the researchers looked at data on 760 women who had previously taken part in the Nurses’ Health Study. As part of that study, the women had provided lifestyle information as well as given blood samples two times, ten years apart. Once the available data was narrowed, the researchers found that those women who developed coronary heart disease during the decade between blood tests had poorer diets than the women who didn’t, as well as higher BMIs, a family history of heart attack, and — significantly — higher amounts of TMAO in their blood.
In comparing the blood samples, the study found that participants who had the greatest increases in TMAO level during the study also had a 67 percent higher risk of developing coronary artery disease. The study’s senior author Lu Qi, MD, explained the impact of this discovery saying, “Our findings show that decreasing TMAO levels may contribute to reducing the risk of CHD, and suggest that gut-microbiomes may be new areas to explore in heart disease prevention.”
The main takeaway of the study is: healthy, plant-based diets are a good way to improve your heart health.
If you think that you could be doing more to help your heart stay healthy, changing your diet to one that involves fewer animal products and more plant-based options is a good place to start. If you want guidance on how to take steps to improve your heart health, the doctors at TriCity Cardiology are here to help you. We are here to talk you through your options and to help you build a diet plan that best fits your health needs.