In a new study, researchers found that the common cholesterol-lowering drug statins may work as a potential therapy to protect the gut from obesity.
Statins are commonly prescribed to reduce risk of developing cardio-metabolic diseases. Besides their cholesterol-lowering effects, statins also tend to appease patients’ systemic inflammation levels.
The research was conducted by a team at the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology and elsewhere.
The team explores gut bacteria in nearly 900 people from three countries (France, Denmark, and Germany) with BMI ranging between 18 and 73.
They confirm that the intestinal microbiota in obese people had previously been shown to differ from those in lean people.
They identified a single gut microbiota configuration (enterotype) with increased prevalence in people suffering from intestinal inflammation (inflammatory bowel disease), multiple sclerosis, and depression.
This disturbed enterotype includes low bacterial abundances and biodiversity, notably deficient in some anti-inflammatory bacteria such as Faecalibacterium.
In fact, even among healthy people, the team detected slightly higher inflammation levels in carriers of what we refer to as the Bacteroides2 (Bact2) enterotype.
As obesity is known to result in increased body inflammation levels, they hypothesized that Bact2 would also be more prevalent among obese participants.
Their analyses suggest that gut bacteria play a role in the process of developing obesity-associated comorbidities by sustaining inflammation.
But further research shows an additional potential beneficial effect of statin therapy on the gut microbiota.
In obese people, the prevalence of the dysbiotic Bact2 enterotype was much lower in those taking statins than in people not taking statins.
These results suggest statins could potentially reduce the harmful gut microbiota alterations and reduce inflammation in obesity.
On one hand, by appeasing gut inflammation, statin therapy might lead to a less hostile gut environment, allowing the development of a healthy microbiota.
On the other hand, a direct impact of statins on bacterial growth has been previously demonstrated, which could possibly benefit non-inflammatory bacteria and underlie the anti-inflammatory effects of statin therapy.
The potential beneficial impact of statins on the gut opens novel opportunities in disease treatment.
The study is part of a greater effort in unraveling the role of gut microbiota in heart disease.
The lead author of the study is Sara Vieira-Silva from Rega Institute.
The study is published in Nature.
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