Cholesterol-lowering Statins May Improve Gut Health in Obese People

Alana Hippensteele, Editor

In a new study, researchers analyzed gut microbiota to understand further the links between gut health and obesity.

Research into the nature of imbalances in the gut microbiome have shown that the composition of gut microbes is linked to human disorders that span from obesity, diabetes, and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) to depression, schizophrenia, autism, and Parkinson disease.1

In a new study published in Nature, researchers analyzed gut microbiota of approximately 900 individuals based in Denmark, France, and Germany.1

In prior studies, the gut microbiota in individuals who are obese was proven to be different from those of subjects who were not. In these studies, the obese subjects presented limited health-promoting bacteria, while the remaining bacteria showed a strong presence of inflammation.2

In an attempt to understand these bacteria further, the researchers in the current study defined a cluster of bacteria they identified as Bacteroides2 (Bact2) enterotype, which is an intestinal microbiota configuration present in loose stool samples and is associated with systemic inflammation.2

The researchers learned that Bact2’s prevalence varied from 13% in a general population cohort to as high as 78% in patients with IBD. The researchers explained that during the progression toward obesity, individuals reported changes in stool consistency and inflammation. This led the researchers to consider that these developments might be correlated to an increased prevalence of Bact2.2

The results of the study showed that the prevalence of Bact2 was, in fact, significantly correlated with body mass index (BMI). In lean or overweight participants, the prevalence of Bact2 was 3.90%, whereas in obese participants, the prevalence was 17.73%.2

When assessing obesity-associated microbiota in the faecal metagenomes of the cohort, the researchers identified statin therapy as a key covariate of microbiome diversification. They found that obese patients being treated with statin therapy had a Bact2 prevalence of 5.88%, which is significantly lower than those not receiving statin therapy.2

Physicians generally prescribe statins to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, such as myocardial infarction and stroke. Yet, beyond their cholesterol-lowering effects, statins are also known to be able to lower patients' systemic inflammation, which may be a cause of disrupted gut microbiota.2

The researchers said the results demonstrate that statins may be able to manage the disrupted gut microbiota and linked inflammation in obese patients. This was also supported by prior experiments on rodents that had shown statins had a significant impact on bacterial growth, which could be beneficial for non-inflammatory bacteria and support the anti-inflammatory effects of statin therapy.2

The researchers noted that further clinical trials would be needed to evaluate whether the anti-inflammatory effects of statins are reproducible in a randomized population before recommendations could be made regarding the prescription of statin to patients in need of modulation of their microbiota.2


  • Cholesterol lowering drugs linked to improved gut bacteria composition in obese people. ScienceDaily. May 6, 2020. Accessed May 7, 2020.
  • Vieira-Silva S, Falony G, Belda E, et al. Statin therapy is associated with lower prevalence of gut microbiota dysbiosis. Nature. 2020. doi:10.1038/s41586-020-2269-x.