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Atherosclerosis, the clogging of the arteries through hardening and deposits of fatty substances called lipids, has long been identified as a culprit causing heart attacks and strokes. The lipids themselves that actually cause the blockage of blood vessels has long been assumed to enter the bloodstream as a result of a person’s diet. Eating both fatty and cholesterol-heavy food has been assumed to be the source of the lipids. However, researchers became suspicious when it was uncovered that some people who do eat large amounts of fat-rich foods never develop heart disease.
What accounts for the difference in the two groups of people?
By analyzing the atheromas collected from patients of both study groups, with and without heart disease, researchers found that the lipids had a chemical signature from bacteria, not animals. The bacteria in question, known commonly as bacteroidetes, make distinctive fats. It is these types of fats that are able to enter the bloodstream and into atheromas. Since the chemical signature is different from that of animals, this difference is likely what causes the buildup seen in patients with atherosclerosis.