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Gut health and heart disease – how important is your diet?

Gut health and heart disease – how important is your diet?

Healthy Diet & A Stethoscope

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death globally. In 2019 it was estimated that 17.9 million people died from CVD, representing 32% of all deaths globally. Poor diet can be a contributor to non-communicable diseases such as CVD; particularly diets that are rich in sugar, salt and unhealthy fats.

In this blog, you can meet the team of SEFARI researchers trying to aid our understanding of the links between atherosclerosis (where arteries become clogged with fatty substances) and diet and, what they’ve discovered so far.

The focus of some of our recent dietary research has been in the area of gut microbiology and the influence that the bacteria in the gut have on human health. These gut bacteria, also known as the microbiota, can be affected positively or negatively by what we eat. Previous work from the Rowett has shown that dietary fibre can promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the human gut. Research has also shown that a balanced and diverse diet promotes bacterial diversity, which is linked to human health and is important in maintaining a healthy microbiota during weight loss.

Poor diets are those that not only are high in unhealthy (rich in sugar, salt and unhealthy fats) foods but are lacking in healthy ingredients such as fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. We already know that wholegrains have an effect on hypertension and heart disease, but by extending this work to the microbiota, research has shown that consumption of whole grains can provide molecular benefits to both gut bacteria and our overall health.

Therefore, by looking at the bigger dietary health picture SEFARI researchers at the Rowett Institute collaborate as an interdisciplinary team of scientists, comprised of gut microbiologists, natural product chemists and functional food specialists, who, together, can better investigate the links between gut bacteria and heart health.

Their research, funded through the Strategic Research Programme, is looking into delivering solutions to aid the prevention of diet-related causes of atherosclerosis. This includes studies on trying to understand which bacterial species are likely to be involved in the disease; and strategies to ultimately deliver functional foods and ingredients as part of nutritional therapies to tackle atherosclerosis.


Meet the team:

Gut microbiologists

Dr Alan Walker

Alan’s work examines the interactions between host diet & the intestinal microbiota, and how these factors may contribute to host health.


Dr Sylvia Duncan

Sylvia investigates aspects of diet and the effect digestion of food had on our gut.


Natural products chemist

Professor Wendy Russell

Wendy investigates the complex relationship between diet and human health.


Functional food formulation specialist

Dr Madalina Neacsu

Madalina’s research aims to establish novel crops as best candidates for food security and for a healthy sustainable diet.


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