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Gut bacteria may affect cardiovascular risk

Antioxidant-producing microbes may keep atherosclerotic plaques in place

6:41pm, December 4, 2012

Though atherosclerosis is an artery problem, microscopic denizens of the intestines may play a surprising role in how the disease plays out.

A new study suggests that different mixes of intestinal microbes may determine whether people will have heart attacks or strokes brought on by break-away plaque from the arteries. Compared with healthy people, heart disease patients who have had strokes or other complications of atherosclerosis carry fewer microbes that make anti-inflammatory compounds. These patients also have more bacteria that produce inflammation-triggering molecules, researchers report online December 4 in Nature Communications. Inflammation is thought to promote cardiovascular disease.

The findings may help explain why people with higher levels in their body fat of antioxidant molecules like beta-carotene and lycopene have a lower risk of developing heart disease, but simply feeding people dietary supplements containing the compounds doesn&rsquo

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