Research shows that host-microbe interactions can regulate immune and metabolic pathways. Here, Fu and colleagues investigated the connection between the microbiota and selected risk factors for cardiovascular disease in humans: abnormal blood lipid levels and high body mass.

In this study of 893 subjects, researchers found 34 bacterial taxa associated with body mass index (BMI) and blood lipids. Microbiota explained 4.5% of variance in BMI, 6% in triglycerides, and 4% in high-density lipoproteins (HDL). The microbiota did not appear to be relevant to low-density lipoprotein (LDL). By accounting for 4.5% of BMI variance, microbiota data could be a more powerful predictive tool than human genetic data, which explain 2.1% of the variance.

Using this information in a new risk model, authors could explain up to 25.9% of HDL variance. They concluded that the gut microbiome plays an important role in variation of BMI and blood lipids, supporting the notion that the gut microbiota should be a ‘partner’ in helping manage metabolic syndrome.

Reference: Fu J, Bonder MJ, Cenit MC, Tigchelaar EF, Maatman A, Dekens JA, Brandsma E, Marczynska J, Imhann F, Weersma RK, Franke L, Poon TW, Xavier RJ, Gevers D, Hofker MH, Wijmenga C, Zhernakova A. (2015) The Gut Microbiome Contributes to a Substantial Proportion of the Variation in Blood Lipids. Circulation Research doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.115.306807