Fasting could help fight against high blood pressure, study finds

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Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine, led by Dr. David J. Durgan, have made a significant discovery in the fight against hypertension – a major health concern in the United States.

Their groundbreaking research delves into the connection between gut microbiota, the community of microorganisms in our digestive system, and high blood pressure.

The study, building on previous research from Baylor’s lab, found that gut microbiota in hypertensive animals differs markedly from that in animals with normal blood pressure.

A crucial revelation was that transferring dysbiotic (imbalanced) gut microbiota from a hypertensive animal to one with normal blood pressure resulted in the latter developing high blood pressure.

This discovery established that gut dysbiosis is more than just a byproduct of hypertension; it plays a role in causing it.

The Baylor team then set out to answer two pivotal questions: Can altering dysbiotic microbiota prevent or relieve hypertension? And how exactly does gut microbiota influence blood pressure?

To find answers, they turned to intermittent fasting, known to significantly affect gut microbiota composition and linked to cardiovascular benefits.

Their study utilized the SHRSP (spontaneously hypertensive stroke-prone rat) model and normal rats, dividing them into two groups: one with intermittent fasting and the other with unrestricted food access.

After nine weeks, the fasting SHRSP rats exhibited notably lower blood pressure compared to their non-fasting counterparts. The team then transplanted the microbiota from these rats into germ-free rats, which have no existing gut microbiota.

Intriguingly, the germ-free rats that received microbiota from fasting SHRSP rats showed significantly lower blood pressure compared to those receiving microbiota from SHRSP rats on a regular diet.

Further analysis revealed that changes in bile acid metabolism might be key in regulating blood pressure.

Hypertensive animals on a normal diet had lower bile acids in their circulation than normotensive animals, whereas those on an intermittent fasting regime had increased bile acids. Supplementing animals with cholic acid, a primary bile acid, also led to reduced blood pressure.

These findings are revolutionary, showing for the first time that intermittent fasting can lower hypertension by altering gut microbiota.

This research not only highlights gut dysbiosis as a contributor to hypertension through changes in bile acid signaling but also opens up new avenues for clinical applications.

The idea of using fasting schedules to regulate gut microbiota activity presents a natural, non-invasive approach to health benefits, especially in managing blood pressure.

Dr. Durgan’s study offers a new perspective on the potential of fasting as a tool for health improvement, with implications that extend beyond just dietary recommendations to a broader understanding of gut microbiota’s role in overall physiology.

If you care about high blood pressure, please read studies about unhealthy habits that may increase high blood pressure risk, and drinking green tea could help lower blood pressure.

For more information about high blood pressure, please see recent studies about what to eat or to avoid for high blood pressure,  and 12 foods that lower blood pressure.

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