In a medical first, a new study in Cleveland revealed that when a certain compound found in olive oils and red wines is used to target and block gut microbes, a person's risks for cardiovascular diseases can be lowered.

Cleveland Clinic researchers previously found that trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), which is formed in the gut during digestion of red meat, is associated with the development of cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis. This disease occurs when the arteries become hardened, consequently leading to heart attack or stroke.

Now, through clinical trials in mice, the team discovered that a compound called DMB (3,3-dimethyl-1-butanol) actually reduces levels of TMAO and lowers atherosclerosis. This compound naturally occurs in balsamic vinegars, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oils, grape seed oils and red wines.

The new study, which is issued in the journal Cell, showed that attacking the microbiome TMAO with DMB can effectively prevent heart diseases. Dr. Stanley Hazen, the study's lead author, said that DMB blocks the formation of TMAO in the manner that statins inhibit cholesterol synthesis in human cells.

The mice in the study took a high carnitine or choline diet, and were then drugged with DMB. The rodents were found to have fewer TMAO and less atherosclerosis.

"Many chronic diseases like atherosclerosis, obesity and diabetes are linked to gut microbes," said Hazen.

Hazen said that their findings show the possibility that the development of diet-induced cardiovascular diseases can be prevented, opening the opportunities to develop new types of treatments for atherosclerosis and other metabolic diseases.

The research team's next step is to conduct human testing.

Meanwhile, experts said the findings of the study prove why the Mediterranean diet is effective and healthy for the heart. Most foods in this diet contain DMB, they said.

Other studies that aim to lower TMAO levels mostly focus on suppressing the enzymes that convert TMA into TMAO, but researchers said this approach damages the liver and results to the body generating a strange fishy odor.

The researchers also noted that the DMB did not kill the TMAO microbe, and this indicates that the microbe is less likely to develop resistance to DMB than to lethal antibiotics.

The study was funded by the American Heart Association, the National Institutes of Health, and the Office of Dietary Supplements.

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