Propionate in Dietary Fiber Could Influence Cardiovascular Health- Study Says

According to a recent study on mice, the fatty acid propionate is known for its defense properties, it not only influence the persons’ high blood pressure but also shows its effect on atherosclerosis and heart tissue remodeling. Gut bacteria release some kind of substance from the natural dietary fiber that helps in calming down the immune cells which cause an increase in blood pressure.

Though a very well known proverb says “you are what you eat” but by and large our health also depends upon mainly what the gut bacteria consume in our digestive tract. The gut flora in the digestive tract consumes food and synthesizes significant micronutrients for example vitamins.

The gut-friendly bacteria produce some metabolites from the natural dietary fiber including propionate. Propionate, as mentioned above, provides defense against the harmful effects of high blood pressure. A Berlin research team from the Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC), explains why this is so. The study has been published online in the journal Circulation.

For further explaining it the researchers fed fatty acid propionate to the mice with high blood pressure. After some days it was observed that the mice were less susceptible to cardiac arrhythmia as they were now less prone to damage and abnormal enlargement of the heart. They were now also less prone to vascular damage that is atherosclerosis.

The group research leader and MDC researcher Professor Dominik N. Müller said: “Propionate works against a range of impairments in cardiovascular function caused by high blood pressure. This may be a promising treatment option, particularly for patients who have too little of this fatty acid.”

Dr. Nicola Wilck and Hendrik Bartolomaeus from the ECRC says, “Our study made it clear that the substance takes a detour via the immune system and thus affects the heart and blood vessels.” Both of the researchers have been working on this project for five years.

According to the study, it is the T helper cells which contribute in calming the inflammatory processes and high blood pressure. It shows a direct effect on the working of the heart. The researchers by using targeted electrical stimuli triggered 70% of the untreated mice with heart arrhythmia. However, it was only one-fifth of the mice who were easily influenced by abnormal heart contractions after being treated with propionate.

Further research with single-cell study and ultrasound tissue sections showed propionate also positively influence the consequences of high blood pressure to the cardiovascular system, ultimately increasing the survival rate of the animal. It was also observed that when the T cells in the body of the mice were deactivated, propionate stopped showing its positive effects. Therefore, for attaining health effects of propionate it is mandatory to have healthy immune cells.

Another research team led by Johannes Stegbauer, an adjunct professor at Düsseldorf University Hospital, further confirmed the findings in his study.

The finding clearly explains as to why nutritionists all around the world always recommend making natural dietary fiber as a part of the daily diet. Wholegrain foods and fruits are full of cellulose and insulin fibers. Both of them help the gut bacteria to produce metabolites like propionate. Propionate is a short chain fatty acid with a skeleton of three carbon atoms. Wilck says: “Previously, it had not been clear which fatty acid is behind the positive effects and how it works.”

This study has now opened new doors for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases. “It might make sense to administer propionate or a chemical precursor directly as a drug.” For example, if the blood of the person contains little amount of the substance.

However, still more research and clinical trials have to be done to prove propionate. The research team is now currently wondering and hoping if this substance also works and performs the same function in the human body. Consumption of propionate is regarded as completely safe also; it can be produced on an economical basis.

Propionate is already being used as a preservative for decades. Not only this, but it is also an approved food additive. Wilck says: “With these favorable conditions, hopefully, propionate will soon make the leap from the lab to patients who need it.”

Adeena Tariq

Adeena's professional life has been mostly in hospital management, while studying international business in college. Of course, she now covers topics for us in health.

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