Common cholesterol drugs may trigger protective gut bacteria changes

Newly published research details a 'clear link' between taking a common cholesterol-lowering drug and healthier gut bacteria. Though additional research is necessary to understand the full implications of this discovery, the study indicates that certain medications may be a useful preventative treatment in people who have less healthy gut bacteria, giving them a beneficial boost that may help reduce or protect against various conditions.

The new study comes from the University of Gothenburg, where researchers looked into the potential link between gut bacteria and cardiovascular disease. The scientists studied data from more than 2,000 European adults and labeled the ones who contained fewer beneficial gut bacteria as 'Bact2.'

As indicated by past research into gut bacteria and its protective health effects, the study notes that people who fall in the 'Bact2' group are more prone to certain conditions, including auto-immune and inflammatory conditions like Irritable Bowel Disease and Multiple Sclerosis. The team noted that 18-percent of obese patients in the study were Bact2 whereas only 4-percent of normal weight adults fell into the same category.

Of note, the researchers found that participants who were given statin therapy — a treatment for lowering high cholesterol levels — experienced an improvement in their gut bacteria health, reducing the number of people who fell into the 'Bact2' category. Additional research will be necessary to demonstrate whether it is the drug that causes the change, but the findings show promise for potential new preventative drugs that target the gut microbiome.

Professor Fredrik Bäckhed, one of the study's authors, explained:

Although the study does not provide a causal link, it's exciting to see how a well-established and clinically used drug can change the gut microbiota. Time will tell whether statins affect bacteria in the gut directly or whether these drugs affect both gut and immune cells that, in turn, help modify the microbiota.