Lexington, KY—A diet high in fiber could possibly reverse the adverse effects that environmental toxins have on cardiovascular health, according to research from the University of Kentucky’s Superfund Research Center (SRC). The findings are part of SRC’s Project #1, which examines how nutrients affect toxicity caused by polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in vascular tissues, according to a press release on the topic.

PCBs are man-made chemicals used in industrial and commercial applications. They’ve been linked to a number of adverse health effects in humans and animals, the release says, and while they were banned more than 40 years ago, they can still be released into the environment from poorly maintained hazardous waste sites. Prior research by Bernhard Hennig, a professor in the university’s Department of Animal and Food Sciences, found a connection between PCBs and cardiovascular disease. Pan Deng, a postdoctoral researcher working in Hennig’s lab, is continuing his research with a study that found that nutrients including fiber reduced PCB toxicity in multiple organ systems, including gut microbiota, liver, and vasculature.
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Deng’s field of research is called metabolomics, and it examines how metabolites within a cell, tissue or biofluid of an organism respond to external stressors—in this case the toxic exposure from PCBs. Deng checks levels of nutrients and pollutants in the cells through liquid and gas chromatography testing. The process is called metabolic profiling.

“Using animal models, we found that eating a high-fiber diet can prevent pollutant-induced cardiovascular disease," Deng said in the release. "This finding may lead to nutritional and therapeutic interventions in people who are exposed to PCBs.”

The EPA has designated thousands of contaminated sites in the U.S. as Superfund sites, where hazardous waste has been improperly managed.