The compound resveratrol found in red wine contains antioxidant properties which may prevent the build-up of plaque in arteries that leads to heart disease.
But a discovery by Chinese scientists uncovers the mechanism and suggests that targeting microbiota in the gut may be the way to reduce heart disease.
Their results suggest that the furring of arteries, or atherosclerosis could be a direct result of a chemical TMAO (trimethylamine-N-oxide ) in the gut which red wine’s resveratrol inhibits.
Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in industrialised societies and are a growing concern in developing countries.
Dr Man-tian Mi, a researcher at the Research Centre for Nutrition and Food Safety in China, said: “Our results offer new insights into the mechanisms responsible for resveratrol’s anti-atherosclerosis effects and indicate that gut microbiota may become an interesting target for pharmacological or dietary interventions to decrease the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.”
Dr Mi and his team conducted a number of experiments using mice to determine whether the protective effect of resveratrol against atherosclerosis was related to changes in gut microbiome.
They found that resveratrol reduces levels of TMAO a known contributor to the development of atherosclerosis.
The study, published in the journal mBio, also shows that resveratrol prevents TMA production by gut bacteria, TMA is necessary for the production of TMAO.
Now the researchers are attempting to further define the role of resveratrol in cardiovascular disease to replicate their findings in humans.
Dr Mi added: “In our current study we found that resveratrol can model the gut microbiota including increasing the Bacteroidetes-to-Firmicutes ratios, significantly inhibiting the growth of Prevotella and increasing the relative abundance of Bacteroides, Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium and Akkermansia in mice.
“Resveratrol reduces TMAO levels by inhibiting the gut microbial TMA formation via remodelling gut microbiota.”