Research Demonstrates the Link Between Your Gut and Heart

Two Cleveland Clinic studies investigate the role of gut bacteria and how bariatric surgery may raise the risk of diabetic ketoacidosis.

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It’s easy to think of your digestive system and your cardiovascular system as two distinct parts of your body with little influence on each other. But of course, what you eat can impact your weight, your blood pressure (especially if your diet is salty) and your cholesterol. Healthy circulation is vital for the functioning of your stomach, intestines, and all your organs.

Two recent studies by Cleveland Clinic researchers underscore the gut-heart connection in differentways.

In one study, researchers led by Stanley Hazen, MD, PhD, found that a certain type of gut bacteria may affect the platelet activity in the bloodstream, increasing the risk of blood clot formation. Dr. Hazen, chairman of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute, has made other heart-related discoveries linking high levels of TMAO, a gut bacteria byproduct, to a higher risk of heart disease. This latest research was published in the journal Cell. TMAO is produced when the body digests foods such as eggs and red meat.

“This new link helps explain how diet-induced TMAO generation is mechanistically linked to development of lethal adverse complications of heart disease,” Dr. Hazen says. “The results of the studies suggest potential new therapeutic targets and possible nutritional interventions for preventing cardiovascular events and improving heart health.”

Bariatric Complications

In a separate study, published in Diabetes Care, Cleveland Clinic researchers explored the connection between patients with diabetes who undergo bariatric surgery and their risk for a potentially serious condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).

DKA is characterized by high levels of ketones, chemicals the body produces when it burns fat for energy. The body burns fat when it can’t get enough glucose to use for energy. But high ketone levels make the blood more acidic, causing serious complications.

Cleveland Clinic researchers found that while DKA is fairly common among individuals with type 1 diabetes, DKA may also develop in insulin-deficient patients with type 2 diabetes.

“Bariatric surgery can lead to significant weight loss and improved insulin requirements and glycemic status of patients with obesity and type 1 diabetes,” says lead researcher Ali Aminian, MD, staff surgeon at Cleveland Clinic’s Bariatric and Metabolic Institute. “Surgeons should involve endocrinologists in the perioperative management of these patients to adjust insulin. If we manage those patients appropriately, the incidence of DKA will be lower.”

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