A potential relationship between gut flora and hypertension, or high blood pressure, has been discovered by MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) scientists with the help of a team of German researchers. The findings state gut microbes may help prevent inflammation in hypertension patients who consume a diet high in sodium. The study, which appears in the Nov. 15 issue ofNature,found that probiotics may reverse the effects of sodium on hypertension in both mice and humans.

“I think certainly there’s some promise in developing probiotics that could be targeted to possibly fixing some of the effects of a high-salt diet, but people shouldn’t think they can eat fast food and then pop a probiotic, and it will be canceled out,” MIT Professor Eric Alm toldMIT News.

Researchers at The Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne recently conducted a similar study on mice, published inCirculation. The research institute is now looking to observe the effects of a high-fiber “prebiotic diet” on human subjects, and is looking to recruit participants with hypertension who do not take blood pressure medication for their upcoming study in 2018. If the findings of their previous study on mice are in any way indicative of the results of their upcoming study on humans, researchers may have found the answers they have been looking for.

Research from the lab of Dominik Muller in Berlin, the research center that has been assisting MIT, showed a high sodium diet can reduce the presence of a certain strain of beneficial gut bacteria. This reduction results in an imbalance of harmful cells known as Th-17 that lead to inflammation and therefore hypertension. Research has shown supplementing with a probiotic can restore this imbalance by replenishing helpful gut microbes.

The common thread between the two studies is both have demonstrated the profound influence of gut flora on one’s health. "We're learning that the immune system exerts a lot of control on the body, above and beyond what we generally think of as immunity," Alm says. "The mechanisms by which it exerts that control are still being unraveled.” In a paper published in theNature Reviews Cardiology, Dr. Francine Marques, leader of Baker’s heart failure research, and her colleagues stated the gut was giving “a new perspective on human disease.”

This new research comes amid new blood pressure guidelines issued by experts at the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology. The new guidelines suggest high blood pressure, which was once defined as 140/90 millimeters of mercury or greater, is now 130/80. Since the new guidelines will put more individuals in the hypertension “risk pool” (approximately 4.2 million will be new candidates), the findings of these studies are more pertinent than ever.

Posted on WholeFoods Magazine Online, 11/27/17