A recent study published in the journal Circulation has shown that levels of certain bacteria living in the gut are correlated with increased plaque in the arteries.
The cross-sectional study included almost 9,000 participants in Sweden with an age range of 50–65 years. The participants’ coronary artery plaque was measured using coronary artery calcium scores and computed tomography angiography, and their gut microbiota compositions were assessed using stool samples. The goal of the study was to determine the associations between the composition of the gut microbiota and levels of coronary artery plaque.
The results showed that an abundance of certain species of bacteria in the gut, particularly from the genus Streptococcus, was associated with increased plaque in the arteries. Increased abundance of Streptococcus and certain other species was also associated with systemic inflammation markers. Species from the genus Streptococcus are common causes of pneumonia and infections of the throat, skin, and heart valves. Interestingly, some of the species in the gut that were correlated with increased arterial plaque could also be found in high abundance in the mouths of those patients as measured by saliva samples.
The authors noted that this is an important discovery but that more research is required. People with high levels of bacteria from the genus Streptococcus in their guts appear to have worse cardiovascular health, but further research is needed to determine whether these bacteria are causing the building of plaque or whether they are simply correlated with it. Gut microbiota composition has been linked to atherosclerotic disease in previous studies, and a better understanding of how gut bacteria interact with heart health may lead to new therapies and treatments for coronary artery disease.