Probiotics Could Treat Hypertension


A new study suggests that dietary salt consumption causes high blood pressure (hypertension) by affecting the gut microbiome.


The Western lifestyle with high salt consumption has been known to cause hypertension and cardiovascular disease for quite some time. Most studies have focussed on the role of the kidneys and blood vessels in this process, but some research has suggested that the immune system plays a role.  


In a study published in the journal Nature, researchers now show that high dietary salt affects the gut microbiome.


Scientists observed that feeding the mice a high-salt diet caused the reduction of a certain species of bacteria – Lactobacillus murinus – and also caused a type of autoimmune inflammation that has previously been linked to hypertension.


Giving the mice a probiotic containing Lactobacillus murinus stopped the negative effects of salt consumption.


To verify the results in humans, the researchers recruited healthy male volunteers and gave them 6 g extra dietary salt for 14 days.


Unsurprisingly, the blood pressure of the volunteers went up and they had the same increase in inflammatory immune cells as the mice.


Furthermore, the gut microbiomes of the human volunteers were also lacking in Lactobacillus after eating all that salt.


Salt affects a whole host of processes in the body, so the microbiome is by no means the only piece of the puzzle. However, this research sheds new light on a significant health problem and suggests that microbiome-targeted therapies have significant potential.


The researchers finally point out that, as much as you might wish it, taking a probiotic won't instantly counteract all those McDonalds fries!