Dietary metabolism, the gut microbiome, and heart failure

Nat Rev Cardiol. 2019 Mar;16(3):137-154. doi: 10.1038/s41569-018-0108-7.


Advances in our understanding of how the gut microbiota contributes to human health and diseases have expanded our insight into how microbial composition and function affect the human host. Heart failure is associated with splanchnic circulation congestion, leading to bowel wall oedema and impaired intestinal barrier function. This situation is thought to heighten the overall inflammatory state via increased bacterial translocation and the presence of bacterial products in the systemic blood circulation. Several metabolites produced by gut microorganisms from dietary metabolism have been linked to pathologies such as atherosclerosis, hypertension, heart failure, chronic kidney disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes mellitus. These findings suggest that the gut microbiome functions like an endocrine organ by generating bioactive metabolites that can directly or indirectly affect host physiology. In this Review, we discuss several newly discovered gut microbial metabolic pathways, including the production of trimethylamine and trimethylamine N-oxide, short-chain fatty acids, and secondary bile acids, that seem to participate in the development and progression of cardiovascular diseases, including heart failure. We also discuss the gut microbiome as a novel therapeutic target for the treatment of cardiovascular disease, and potential strategies for targeting intestinal microbial processes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Bacteria / drug effects
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Diet*
  • Dysbiosis
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome* / drug effects
  • Heart Failure / diet therapy
  • Heart Failure / metabolism
  • Heart Failure / microbiology*
  • Heart Failure / physiopathology
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Humans
  • Intestines / drug effects
  • Intestines / microbiology*
  • Nutritive Value
  • Prebiotics
  • Probiotics / therapeutic use


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Prebiotics