Intermittent fasting can stimulate changes in intestinal bacteria that lower blood pressure, according to a new study by Baylor College of Medicine. The results were based on laboratory rats with spontaneous hypertension, as well as normal and healthy rodents, who were placed on intermittent fasting protocols and received intestinal microbiota transplants.
Hypertension is a common condition that, if left untreated, can lead to a variety of serious health problems, including heart disease and stroke. A body of research has linked beneficial bacteria to healthy blood pressure – for example, the use of antibacterial mouthwash can affect oral bacteria in a way that contributes to hypertension.
This new study focused on intestinal bacteria and the role it can play in hypertension, finding that a microbiota disorder can influence the development of hypertension, rather than being the result of it. The research focused on mice, including a mouse model prone to spontaneously hypertensive stroke (SHRSP), normal mice and those that were germ-free, meaning that they did not have their own microbiota.
Part of the research involved dividing the rats into two groups, one with unrestricted access to food and the other with an intermittent fasting protocol that involved eating on alternate days. Nine weeks later, the researchers found that the SHRSP mice that fasted had lower blood pressure than the SHRSP mice that ate daily.
Next, the researchers transplanted the microbiota from regularly fed and fasting mice to germ-free mice. Germ-free rats that received transplants of SHRSP rats without fasting developed higher blood pressure similar to that of the donor. However, rats that received transplants from SHRSP rats placed on a fasting diet had “significantly lower” blood pressure than control recipients.
Dr. David J Durgan, one of the researchers behind the study, explained:
This study is important to understand that fasting can have its effects on the host through the manipulation of the microbiota. This is an attractive idea because it can potentially have clinical applications. Many of the bacteria in the intestinal microbiota are involved in the production of compounds that have been shown to have beneficial effects as they enter the circulation and contribute to the regulation of the host’s physiology. Fasting schedules may one day help regulate the activity of microbial populations in the gut to naturally provide health benefits.