Imperial College London

Gut bacteria plays an important role in our cardiovascular and metabolic health


Intestinal bacteria

New collaborative research highlights how good gut microbiota function has an impact on our general physical and psychological health.

The research, led by Imperial's Professor Marc-Emmanuel Dumas, has shown that hippurate, a metabolite derived from gut bacteria, is associated with microbiotal diversity and is thought to play an important role in our cardiovascular and metabolic health, particularly by helping to regulate blood sugar.

This international collaboration between researchers from Imperial, Inserm, Université de Paris, INRAE and the University of Copenhagen has been published in Gut.

Hippurate metabolism is a perfect example of the cooperation between the gut bacteria and their host, ultimately benefitting host health. Professor Marc-Emmanuel Dumas

For several years, the gut microbiota has been considered to play a key role in our health. Many scientific studies have highlighted the existence of a link between the diversity of the bacterial strains present and certain health parameters, particularly cardiovascular and metabolic.

In this new study, scientists combined two methods, DNA sequencing of the genetic makeup of the gut bacteria (the microbiome) and urinary metabolomic profiling (analysis of small metabolites present in urine) in 271 individuals from a Danish cohort (the MetaHIT study).

From the data obtained, the team has shown that high levels of hippurate in urine are associated with greater gut flora diversity and increased microbiotal gene richness, two parameters that protect against cardiometabolic risk (the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and/or diabetes).

Speaking about the study, Professor Marc-Emmanuel Dumas, based in the Department of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction, said: “We’ve been looking into hippurate’s role for while as we have repeatedly observed it as one of the main metabolites of microbial origin excreted in urine. As we and others have shown it to be negatively associated with multiple diseases, we suspected it was causally beneficial for metabolic health. I am very proud of this collective effort demonstrating that hippurate is indeed beneficial in context of diets rich in fat and that it has a direct impact on glycemic control by the pancreas.”

The researchers also had information about the participants’ dietary habits and body mass index (BMI). They found that in obese individuals with a diet high in saturated fat and were at risk of developing cardiovascular and/or metabolic problems, high levels of hippurate had beneficial effects on weight and metabolic health.

These findings were supplemented by a validation study in obese mice fed a fatty diet. In these animal models, the administration of hippurate improved blood glucose control and stimulated insulin secretion. 

The next step for the scientists is to continue their research by studying the cellular mechanisms that explain how hippurate promotes insulin secretion and blood glucose regulation.

Human and preclinical studies of the host–gut microbiome co-metabolite hippurate as a marker and mediator of metabolic healthFrançois Brial, Julien Chilloux, Trine Nielsen, Sara Vieira-Silva, Gwen Falony, Petros Andrikopoulos, Michael Olanipekun, Lesley Hoyles, Fatima Djouadi, Ana L Neves, Andrea Rodriguez-Martinez, Ghiwa Ishac Mouawad, Nicolas Pons, Sofia Forslund, Emmanuelle Le-chatelier, Aurélie Le Lay, Jeremy Nicholson, Torben HansenTuulia Hyötyläinen, Karine Clément, Matej Oresic, Peer Bork, Stanislav Dusko Ehrlich, Jeroen Raes, Oluf Borbye PedersenDominique Gauguier, Marc-Emmanuel Dumas


Benjamin Coleman

Benjamin Coleman
Department of Surgery & Cancer

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