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Could 'friendly' gut bacteria help fight heart disease? – University of Reading

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Could 'friendly' gut bacteria help fight heart disease?

Release Date 16 July 2012

Scientists at the University of Reading are looking at ways of tackling heart disease and diabetes - through our guts.

Experts in gut microbes at the Department of Food and Nutritional Science at Reading believe that altering the mix of bacteria in our guts could have a significant effect on cutting risks of the metabolic syndrome - a condition that frequently includes obesity and puts people at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

They are currently working on human trials to explore how prebiotics - dietary supplements that stimulate the growth of ‘good' bacteria in the gut - can prevent at-risk patients from gaining weight and increasing their risk of heart disease, stroke or diabetes.

Evidence has already indicated that gut microbes can play an important role in weight gain, with some types of bacteria helping to prevent molecules thought to play a role in weight gain from entering the blood stream.

One such molecule is the microbial cell component lipopolysaccahride, which has been observed to be elevated in cases of type 2 diabetes.

Dr Gemma Walton, one of the researchers working on the project, said: "To find alternative ways to reduce risk factors for these conditions involving the gut would be great.

"Evidence shows that gut microbes may play an important role in the metabolic syndrome, so through altering the gut bacteria we could potentially reduce people's risks of developing associated diseases - heart attacks, strokes and diabetes - currently the most lethal conditions in Europe.

"When we consider that each one of us has more bacteria cells than human cells, gut implicated answers show real potential."


For more information contact Pete Castle at the University of Reading press office on 0118 378 7391 or

Notes to editors:

Dr Walton's work on gut microbiology was recently featured on the BBC documentary 'Guts: The Strange and Mysterious World of the Human Stomach', first shown on BBC Four on 12th July 2012. The show is available to watch online on BBC iPlayer until 19 July. Dr Walton is featured from 46mins onwards.

This work is being carried out by Dr Walton with her colleagues Dr Adele Costabile and Tamara Tompsett. Professor Glenn Gibson is the principle investigator for this project with the additional expertise of Professor Julie Lovegrove, Dr Dimitris Charalampopoulos and Dr Lisa Methven in the Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Reading. The study is funded by the BBSRC Diet and health research industry club.

The Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Reading is the largest University department of its kind in the UK, combining state of the art teaching facilities, laboratories, clinical nutrition unit, and the largest pilot processing plant in the UK. The department is internationally recognised for the quality of its research and enjoys a high public profile in the UK and worldwide.

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