People with scleroderma are at risk of blood vessel damage and scarring if they follow a Western diet which is traditionally high in meat, latest research has shown.

Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) has been detected in people who follow a Western diet, the study has reported.

According to scientists from the University of Michigan, this compound puts people with scleroderma at risk of scarring and blood vessel damage.

The gut microbiome is made up of trillions of bacteria, fungi and other microbes. It plays an extremely important role in the human body by controlling digestion and supporting the immune system.

During the study, the team of academics assessed how TMAO triggers inflammation, vascular injury and fibrosis in people with scleroderma.

They found that TMAO can reshape cells to become scar-forming myofibroblasts, which causes fibrosis and vascular damage.

Lead author Dr John Varga said: “We have uncovered a novel mechanism linking the Western diet, the gut microbiome and some of the devastating effects of scleroderma.

“We will next examine whether drugs, or food products like virgin olive oil, can be used to block formation of this compound in the gut to treat fibrosis.”

The study has been published in the journal iScience.

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