The action of a compound (DMB) in some varieties of olive oils has been linked with a decreased risk of developing heart disease. The study is published in the journal Cell.
When compound DMB, naturally occurring in some extra virgin olive oils, balsamic vinegars, grape seed oils and red wines, was used to target the microbiome of mice, it was found that it prevented atherosclerosis, a condition characterised by the accumulation of fats in arteries. Furthermore, no harmful side effect was noted.
One of the authors, Dr Stanley Hazen, explains that the findings demonstrate how atherosclerosis can be inhibited through gut microbes.
The DMB treatment decreased the microbes’ rate of producing another compound called TMA. The latter is generally excreted after gut microbes have digested nutrients like choline, lecithin, and carnitine. TMA is then turned into molecule TMAO which has been associated with greater risk for heart attacks and strokes among humans, and an increased risk for atherosclerosis in mice. This finding could also explain why consuming foods that are rich in these nutrients such as meat and egg yolks is linked with heart problems.
Other approaches to decrease TMAO levels in attempts to decrease heart disease risk have not brought the desired positive results – a problem countered by the new treatment. Moreover, the DMB did not appear to kill off gut microbes, implying that the latter will most probably not develop resistance against DMB.
DMB’s action on gut bacteria might also open more doors for other metabolic conditions like obesity and diabetes. If the microorganisms which are known to play a certain role in metabolism can be thus manipulated, the disorders might be treated successfully.
The study also supports the salubrious effects of the Mediterranean diet – that usually comprises olive oil, among other oils, and red wine – on the heart. The authors add that some of the advantages of this diet might be the result of its influence on the activity of gut microbiota.