Heart health: what influence diets and supplements have

Heart health: what influence diets and supplements have

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Just lowering cholesterol is not enough

Cardiovascular diseases are the most common cause of death - not only in Germany. This is depressing, after all, diseases such as heart attacks and strokes could often be avoided by persistently low blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels. As experts now explain, lowering cholesterol is not enough to keep the heart healthy.

Adverse blood cholesterol levels are among the most dangerous risk factors for heart disease. Too high a cholesterol level can be treated well with medication or by changing your diet these days, but “heart health depends on so much more than on cholesterol. New mediators for cardiovascular diseases have been added. Everyone can be influenced by diet, ”says the current issue of“ Research Frankfurt ”.

Mouthwash can lead to high blood pressure

The science magazine is published by the President of the Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main. In a communication from the university, news from fish oil fatty acid research and the influence of diet on heart health was summarized.

The experts first point out that antibacterial mouthwash can lead to high blood pressure, since this not only destroys harmful bacteria, but also the useful oral flora. This was shown by a study by researchers from the University of Texas and the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, which was published in the journal Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology.

As explained in the communication from the Frankfurt University, bacteria in the saliva produce enzymes that reduce nitrate from food to nitrite. In this form, the body can convert it further into nitric oxide (NO). According to the experts, NO has a key function for the health of the endothelial cells with which the inner walls of the vessels are lined.

If, on the other hand, the body is fed more nitrates with food, for example in the form of beetroot juice, this could have the effect of lowering blood pressure in certain patient groups. Scientific studies have shown that the administration of non-organic nitrate and beetroot juice is associated with a significant decrease in systolic blood pressure. However, this finding should be verified in further investigations.

Useful bacteria are destroyed

But that's not all: mouthwash can also significantly reduce the blood pressure lowering effect of sport. This was shown by a study published in the journal "Free Radical Biology and Medicine", which was carried out by the University of Plymouth (Great Britain) in cooperation with the Center of Genomic Regulation in Barcelona (Spain). This research team also attributed this effect to the fact that mouthwashes destroy useful types of bacteria.

Another compound that has so far been underestimated is hydrogen sulfide (H2S), known for the smell of rotten eggs, is explained in the statement by Goethe University. In the human body, the synthesis of H2S is controlled by a series of enzymes, with cystathionin lyase (CSE) being the most important in the cardiovascular system.

CSE activity decreases in patients with damaged and malfunctioning endothelial cells. The reason for this could be vascular inflammation, as Sofia-Iris Bibli recently discovered from the “Institute for Vascular Signaling” by Prof. Ingrid Fleming. According to the information, H2S donors are currently being developed for therapy.

How useful are fish oil supplements?

And what about diets that are enriched with omega-3 fatty acids (fish oils)? Study results had initially shown that this form of nutrition generally protects against diabetes and heart diseases.

However, recent clinical studies have shown no significant benefit from fish oil supplements. According to Fleming, this is because the various studies have not determined the optimal concentration of each omega-3 fatty acid or the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids that is required for protection.

In addition, the quality of the over-the-counter supplements available on the market fluctuates greatly. For example, analysis of the best-selling fish oil supplements in the United States showed a high percentage of other fatty acids.

Fish oils can also contain a mixture of the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Protective effects are only known from EPA.

An important source of energy for the heart

According to the experts, it is currently difficult to answer how fish oils develop their anti-inflammatory effects.

So far it is only known that EPA and DHA are easily incorporated into cells and tissues and thereby change the membrane properties, the transmission of signals and the gene expression. In addition, EPA creates the anti-inflammatory Resolvin E1, which has been shown to help resolve inflammation in various disease models.

In addition, fatty acids are an important source of energy for the heart. With more than 75 percent, it derives most of its energy from them, only between 10 and 20 percent come from glucose.

There are scientific studies that show that in some people with heart defects, the heart gains more energy from glucose than from fatty acids. The heart still gets enough energy, but can still not function properly.

“This metabolic process is important. But we still don't know exactly how and why it works, ”says pharmacologist Dr. Jiong Hu, who received an Advanced Grant from the Cardio-Pulmonary Institute for his research at the "Institute for Vascular Signaling".

Vegetarian nutrition protects the vessels

Finally, the Goethe University points out that the bacterial flora in the intestine can also influence the development of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. For example, a diet that contains a lot of red meat favors the development of atherosclerosis, because red meat contains a lot of L-carnitine, which is converted into trimethylamine oxide (TMAO) by the gut microbiota. TMAO favors atherosclerosis.

A vegetarian or vegan diet, on the other hand, protects the vessels. Fleming assumes that a wave of probiotics will develop in the future, which is supposed to change the intestinal flora and the formation of metabolic products to protect the heart. (ad)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Goethe University Frankfurt am Main: Heart health: lowering cholesterol is not enough (accessed: December 10, 2019), Goethe University Frankfurt am Main
  • Research Frankfurt: Issue 2/2019: from the heart, (accessed: December 10, 2019), Research Frankfurt
  • Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology: Frequency of Tongue Cleaning Impacts the Human Tongue Microbiome Composition and Enterosalivary Circulation of Nitrate, (accessed: December 10, 2019), Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology
  • Free Radical Biology and Medicine: Post-exercise hypotension and skeletal muscle oxygenation is regulated by nitrate-reducing activity of oral bacteria, (accessed: December 10, 2019), Free Radical Biology and Medicine

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