How peptides help your gut lower cholesterol and plaque

Want to protect your heart? Start in your gut. Research shows that the bacteria in your gut impact your cholesterol levels, blood pressure, arterial health and other factors that play into your risk for heart disease. How is that possible?

Well, when the microbes in your gut feed on the nutrients you put inside your body, they release substances called metabolites. These substances are proven to play into a variety of diseases including diabetes, cancer and, of course, heart disease.

Depending on what microbes you have in your gut and what food you eat, you’re going to end up with different metabolites… and potentially, different diseases.

Now, your microbiome is constantly evolving based on a variety of factors, including many factors that are within your control like your diet and lifestyle. That’s good news because it means you can change the microbes in your gut and the metabolites they produce.

And if you want to change these microbes and metabolites to support a healthy heart, a new study shows you exactly what you need to do…

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Heal your gut, heal your heart

Scientists at Scripps Research have identified molecules that could potentially rework your microbiome in a way that lowers cholesterol and decreases arterial plaque. These molecules are known as peptides, and they’re short strings of amino acids.

In this study, researchers genetically engineered mice to be more susceptible to high cholesterol, then they fed these mice a Western-style diet. Unsurprisingly, that diet quickly caused the mice to develop high cholesterol, atherosclerosis and negative changes to their microbiome.

Next, researchers took samples from inside the guts of these mice. They applied a type of peptides known as cyclic peptide to these samples and let them sit for a day. The next day, they sequenced the bacterial DNA in the samples to see whether the peptides they used caused the microbes to change in a positive way. And they identified a few that did…

Two peptides hampered the growth of bad gut bacteria. In fact, these two peptides shifted the microbial balance in a way that was very similar to mice eating a healthy diet. When they used these peptides to treat mice who were genetically engineered for high cholesterol and were eating a high-fat Western diet, they had amazing results…

These mice had much lower cholesterol levels compared to mice who didn’t receive the peptides. In fact, their cholesterol was about 36 percent lower after two weeks of treatment. After 10 weeks of treatment, researchers noticed that there were 40 percent less plaques in the mice’s arteries compared to untreated mice.

That means these peptides have the potential to make microbial changes that support a healthy heart… if they work as well in humans as they do in mice.

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Put these peptides on your shopping list

Eventually, researchers might develop cyclic peptide drugs or supplements you can take for a healthy gut and heart. But for now, you might have to turn to another type of peptides…

Collagen peptides are popular supplements made from the bones, skin and connective tissue of animals… and they have been shown to improve gut and heart health.

More specifically, these peptides can protect your gut barrier and prevent your gut from becoming leaky and allowing toxins and other undesirables into your bloodstream. They’ve also been shown to reduce inflammation in the gut.

This positive impact on the gut may also be why collagen supplements have been shown to reduce the risk of heart issues, including the arterial stiffness that’s characteristic of atherosclerosis.

According to my colleague Margaret Cantwell, bone broth is also a great source of peptides shown to block the activity of enzymes known to lead to heart disease.

So, give collagen supplements or bone broth a try (in addition to a gut-friendly diet, of course) to improve your gut and heart health.

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  1. Molecules that reduce ‘bad’ gut bacteria reverse narrowing of arteries in animal study — MedicalXpress.
  2. Directed remodeling of the mouse gut microbiome inhibits the development of atherosclerosis — Nature Biotechnology.
  3. Healthy gut, healthy heart? — Harvard Health Publishing.
  4. What to know about peptides for health — Medical News Today.
  5. Leaky Gut Supplements: What You Need to Know to Feel Better — Healthline.
  6. Top 6 Benefits of Taking Collagen Supplements — Healthline.
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and