From Gut to Heart: Gut Bacteria Identified As Another Heart Disease Risk Factor

Jingyuan Fu, Ph.D. Associate professor of genetics University Medical Center Groningen Interview with:
Jingyuan Fu, Ph.D.
Associate professor of genetics
University Medical Center Groningen

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Jingyuan Fu: Abnormal blood lipid levels are important risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. Because of that, a common advice is to have a healthy lifestyle or take lipid-lowering drugs like statin to control the blood lipid level. However, the problem is only partially solved. Cardiovascular disease remains the No 1 cause of death globally, representing 31% of all global deaths.  The primary purpose of the study is to look for a new solution in humans’ gut. Over millions of years, microbes and humans have formed a truly symbiotic relationship. Human body contains 10 trillion bacteria, 10x more than human cells. They help digest food and train our immune systems. As less than 30% of bacteria in human gut can be cultured, we know very little how they are and what they do in our gut. With the state-of-art deep sequencing technology, we are now able to see who are there. The research questions would be how much effect these bacteria could affect the blood lipids levels and which bacteria play important role. No such an analysis was done in large-scale human population.

Our study was the first to provide solid evidence for the associations between gut bacteria and blood lipids. Although we cannot conclude cause-effect relationship yet, it serves an important step in narrowing possible therapeutic targets.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Jingyuan Fu: From gut to heart: gut bacteria are identified as another risk factor for heart diseases. Unlike other risk factors, like age, gender, genetic risk etc, gut bacteria are changeable by intervention.

Poop is not just “shit”. In the near future, testing/altering bacteria in poop can serve a tool for disease diagnosis, prevention and treatment.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Jingyuan Fu: The field is still in its infancy. We still know very little about the function of these bacteria. Future research would be essential to address:

  1. The role of bacteria.
  2. The causal axis of microbiome-lipids-CVD.
  3. The interaction between dietary factors and gut microbiome in CVD development.


Jingyaun Fu, Marc Jan Bonder, María Carmen Cenit, Ettje Tigchelaar, Astrid Maatman, Jackie A.M. Dekens, Eelke Brandsma, Joanna Marczynska, Floris Imhann, Rinse K. Weersma, Lude Franke, Tiffany W. Poon, Ramnik J. Xavier, Dirk Gevers, Marten H. Hofker, Cisca Wijmenga, and Alexandra Zhernakova. The Gut Microbiome Contributes to a Substantial Proportion of the Variation in Blood Lipids. Circulation Research, September 2015 DOI: 1161/CIRCRESAHA.115.306807

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Jingyuan Fu, Ph.D. (2015). From Gut to Heart: Gut Bacteria Identified As Another Heart Disease Risk Factor 

Last Updated on September 17, 2015 by Marie Benz MD FAAD