Many people take probiotic pills every day to relieve digestive problems, but new research shows that taking these “good bacteria” pills also may ward off life-threatening heart problems. In the wake of the study, a top cardiologist tells Newsmax Health that he now considers probiotics a primary weapon in the fight against heart disease.
“I do already take probiotics, and I will now be recommending them even more strongly to my patients,” said Chauncey Crandall, M.D.
Probiotics are “good” bacteria taken to restore the body’s natural balance of microbes in the gut. They are routinely recommended after taking antibiotics, which can kill beneficial bacteria. Many people also take them routinely to promote healthy intestinal functioning.
But a new Cleveland Clinic study links a certain type of detrimental stomach bacteria with heart disease. By keeping high levels of beneficial bacteria thriving in the intestines, researchers theorize that heart-disease-causing microbes can be kept at bay. “This is a very exciting study,” said Dr. Crandall. “It gives us a brand-new way of looking at heart
disease. It also opens an avenue for new tests and treatments.”
The discovery of the heart disease-causing bacteria might explain why about half of those who die of sudden heart attacks have no known risk factors for heart disease, like high blood pressure, cholesterol, or diabetes, he noted.
“We always knew that there was more than one factor generating or driving the development of heart disease, and now we know about this one,” added Dr. Crandall, who is head of preventive medicine and cardiology services at the world-renowned Palm Beach Cardiovascular Clinic.
The Cleveland Clinic research found certain stomach bacteria turn lecithin – a nutrient in egg yolks, liver, beef, pork, and wheat germ – into an artery-clogging compound called trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO.) They also found that the higher the levels of TMAO a person has, the greater the risk for cardiovascular problems.
While TMAO doesn’t directly cause heart disease, it does inhibit the body from getting rid of cholesterol, according to the study, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The researchers found that those who ate diets with the most red meat had the highest level of TMAO, while people who ate vegetarian diets had the lowest.
“Maybe this is the reason that we shouldn’t be eating red meat,” said Dr. Crandall. “It may be leading to an overgrowth of this heart disease-causing bacteria.”
Probiotic supplements are widely available at drug stores, health food stores, and the Internet.