High blood pressure is a silent danger. It can go unnoticed for a long time, gradually destroying small and large vessels or entire organs. It can cause strokes, heart attacks, and kidney failure. Worldwide, some 1.5 billion people have hypertension, and an estimated 8 million die each year as a result.
Although numerous drugs exist, they only succeed in bringing blood pressure down to a normal level in about half of those who take them. The drugs work in different ways: Some increase the removal of water via the kidneys, while others reduce heart rate. The Clinical Research Unit led by Dr. Anja Mähler at the Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC) is now running the HYPRO Study to investigate whether the gut microbiome can also regulate blood pressure. The ECRC is a joint institution of the Max Delbrück Center and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. The Berlin Institute of Health is also involved in the study. The researchers are currently looking for study participants. All applicants must have blood pressure over 130/80 mmHg, and women must have gone through the menopause. It doesn’t matter if they are taking antihypertensive medication or haven’t received any drug therapy so far.
How probiotics affect the gut
We know that probiotics can reduce blood pressure. But we want to find out what exactly happens in the gut to cause this effect.
The researchers – who include Professor Dominik N. Müller from the ECRC – will investigate how a probiotic influences blood pressure, the immune system, and glucose metabolism. “We know that probiotics can reduce blood pressure,” says Mähler. “But we want to find out what exactly happens in the gut to cause this effect.”
Half of the study participants will take a probiotic powder, stirred into water or yogurt, every morning and evening for four weeks. The other half will take a placebo. All participants’ blood pressure will be closely monitored. They will also wear a glucose sensor for two weeks, which will monitor their blood sugar levels continuously. And they will provide blood and stool samples at the start of the study, after four weeks, and again four weeks later.
“In the guts of the participants taking the probiotic, we expect to see an increase in lactobacilli, which weaken the formation of immune cells that cause hypertension,” says Müller. However: “This doesn’t mean people with hypertension will be able to avoid antihypertensive drugs or making lifestyle changes such as doing more exercise,” says Mähler. “But if we can extend the period before a new patient has to start taking medication, or if we can make existing medication more effective, that would be a big relief for patients.”
- Seeking study participants
Participants are still being sought for the HYPRO Study, which is open to men and post-menopausal women whose blood pressure greater is than 130/80. If you are interested in taking part in the study, please contact us by email at.
In addition to a thorough health examination, participants will receive individualized information on their body composition and dietary behavior. Should the probiotic actually reduce blood pressure, participants and others with hypertension could take advantage of a scientifically-based, non-drug treatment option.
Text: Jana Ehrhardt-Joswig