Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death globally. In 2019 it was estimated that 17.9 million people died from CVD, representing 32% of all deaths globally. Poor diet can be a contributor to non-communicable diseases such as CVD; particularly diets that are rich in sugar, salt and unhealthy fats.
The focus of some recent research has been the area of gut microbiology and the influence that the bacteria in the gut have on human health. These gut bacteria, also known as the microbiota, can be affected positively or negatively by diet. Previous work from the Rowett has shown that dietary fibre can promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the human gut. Research has also shown that a balanced and diverse diet promotes bacterial diversity, which is linked to human health and is important in maintaining a healthy microbiota during weight loss.
Poor diets are those that not only are rich in unhealthy foods but are lacking in healthy ingredients such as fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. The effect of wholegrains on hypertension and heart disease has been discussed previously; though extending this work to the microbiota, research has shown that consumption of whole grains can provide molecules to the gut bacteria to benefit both gut and overall health.
An interdisciplinary team of scientists from the Rowett Institute, comprised of gut microbiologists, natural product chemists and functional food specialists are investigating the link between gut bacteria and heart health.
Their research, funded by the Scottish Government: Rural & Environment Science & Analytical Services, is looking into delivering solutions for the prevention of diet-related causes of atherosclerosis. This includes studies on trying to understand which bacterial species are likely to be involved in the disease; and strategies to ultimately deliver functional foods and ingredients as part of nutritional therapies to tackle atherosclerosis.