Gut health 'really important' to improve repair after heart attack, U of G study finds

Choosing yogurt as a snack, popping a probiotic pill or eating at the right time of day might help people heal better from a heart attack, according to a new University of Guelph study.

What heart patients eat, and when, affects their body’s sleep-wake cycle

A new study by University of Guelph researchers shows that paying attention to what heart patients eat — and when — affects the body’s circadian system driving day-night rhythms, and their healing. (University of Guelph)

Researchers from the University of Guelph believe a healthy gut and a solid sleep cycle could make a difference for people recovering from heart attacks.

Choosing yogurt as a snack, popping a probiotic pill or eating at the right time of day are all be simple steps that could help people recovering from a heart attack, according to the new University of Guelph study.

The study looked at how the gut's microbiome and sleep cycles influence the heart in mice.

To investigate these heart-gut links and their importance in cardiac repair, U of G professor Tami Martino, of the department of biomedical sciences, teamed up with fellow professor Emma Allen-Vercoe, of the department of molecular and cellular biology.

"Your gut health is really important," Martino told CBC News. 

"Your gut microbiome contributes to healing. Anything you can do to help establish a healthy gut microbiome is a beneficial thing."

The team's research showed that the gut microbiome composition in mice follows a day-night rhythm.

The study shows two factors help patients who are in the first few days of recovery after a heart attack:

  • Paying attention to what you eat and when you eat (which helps the microbes in your gut stay healthy).
  • Having a regular sleep cycle (which helps your gut do what's necessary to help the heart recover).

"The most exciting finding from the study would be that our gut microbiome is important for how we heal from a heart attack, and that we could design simple and practical strategies in order to be able to do this to benefit healing," Martino said.

"Anything you can do post-heart attack — eating healthy, thinking about eating only in the day time and not at night time, eating probiotics — all of these things can help with healing."

Heart failure is leading cause of death

Heart failure is a leading cause of death worldwide. Heart attacks trigger inflammation, including damage that eventually leads to incurable heart failure.

Earlier research has revealed that the circadian system affects cardiac healing and gut physiology. In the heart, the circadian clock mechanism controls healthy cardiovascular physiology as well as healing from heart disease.
Professor Tami Martino of the department of biomedical sciences at the University of Guelph. (University of Guelph)

"One day, maybe we'll have a probiotic type pill that will be specifically for taking after a heart attack," Martino said. 

Using time-restricted feeding, the researchers also showed that mice fed during the daytime healed more effectively than those fed at night. 

Martino said these findings suggest there are simple and practical circadian-based dietary therapies to influence gut biology and improve cardiac repair in patients.

"In the more near term you would think that approaches like time-restricted feeding, which are very popular in contemporary metabolic work now, would be a very feasible way that people could have control over their own healing and do better."

The study appears in the Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology.


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