10 August 2020

Associate Professor Francine Marque (left) is leading a research project into the role of fibre in reducing blood pressure.

High blood pressure affects one in three Australians and two-thirds of these individuals are either not treated or their blood pressure is not controlled with available medication. It is known as a ‘silent disease’ as it usually has no symptoms until it might be too late.

While salt plays a very important role in regulating blood pressure, researchers at the Monash University Hypertension Research Laboratory are interested in the role of fibre in blood pressure regulation. Not just any kind of fibre, but fermentable fibres that make their way through the gastrointestinal tract, mainly intact, for microbial fermentation in the large bowel. The ecology of the gut changes through introduction of these fibres and microbes produce the metabolites short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), such as butyrate and acetate.

What is the link between dietary fibre and blood pressure? Image courtesy of marqueslab.com

Higher fibre diets that promote the release of these SCFA, which have been linked to a healthier gut microbiome and better health outcomes in a range of conditions. In seminal papers published in Circulation in 2017 and 2020, A/Prof Francine Marques and her team found that a high fermentable fibre diet or supplementation with SCFA reduced blood pressure and improved cardiac function in animal models. We are now performing clinical trials to investigate this acidic environment in the gut and determine whether a diet high in fermentable fibres can reduce blood pressure in untreated patients with high blood pressure.

Our two current trials funded by the National Heart Foundation are seeking both healthy controls as well as untreated hypertensives (140/90-160/100). Benefits to patients include results of 24-hr blood pressure monitoring and learning more about their diet and lifestyle interventions to help control their blood pressure. We are looking to engage with clinicians interested in hypertension who can assist with the recruitment and forming long-term collaborations with mutual benefits including co-authorship of peer-reviewed papers.

Visit marqueslab.com/gut for more information on these clinical trials.

By the Monash University Hypertension Research Laboratory team.

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