Heart disease and fatty clogs in the arteries go hand in hand. But new evidence suggests the fatty molecules might come not only from what you eat but also from the bacteria in your mouth. The research may explain why gum disease is associated with heart trouble.
Heart attacks and strokes are the crises we notice, but they result from a slow process of atherosclerosis, the hardening and clogging of the arteries with fatty substances called lipids. Immune cells stick to the walls of blood vessels, scavenge lipids, and multiply. The blood vessel walls inflame and thicken as the smooth muscle cells lining them change, swelling and dividing to create plaques, clogs, and warty growths called atheromas.
For a very long time, doctors and researchers assumed that the lipids came from eating fatty, cholesterol-rich food. But the research hasn’t borne this out; some people who eat large amounts of the foods we thought were the sources of the fat, such as eggs, butter, fatty fish, and meat, don’t necessarily develop heart disease. The researchers believe they may have solved part of the puzzle. Using careful chemical analysis of atheromas collected from patients at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut, they found that these strange lipids come from a specific family of bacteria.
Usually, these bacteria stay in the mouth and gastrointestinal tract, but the lipids they produce pass easily through cell walls and into the bloodstream where they can lodge in coronary vessels.
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