AIMS: Preliminary evidence from animal and human studies shows that gut microbiota composition and levels of microbiota-derived metabolites, including short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), are associated with blood pressure (BP). We hypothesized that faecal microbiota composition and derived metabolites may be differently associated with BP across ethnic groups.
METHODS AND RESULTS: We included 4672 subjects (mean age 49.8 ± 11.7 years, 52% women) from six different ethnic groups participating in the HEalthy Life In an Urban Setting (HELIUS) study. The gut microbiota was profiled using 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing. Associations between microbiota composition and office BP were assessed using machine learning prediction models. In the subgroups with the largest associations, faecal SCFA levels were compared in 200 subjects with lower or higher systolic BP. Faecal microbiota composition explained 4.4% of the total systolic BP variance. Best predictors for systolic BP included Roseburia spp., Clostridium spp., Romboutsia spp., and Ruminococcaceae spp. Explained variance of the microbiota composition was highest in Dutch subjects (4.8%), but very low in South-Asian Surinamese, African Surinamese, Ghanaian, Moroccan and Turkish descent groups (explained variance <0.8%). Faecal SCFA levels, including acetate (P < 0.05) and propionate (P < 0.01), were lower in young Dutch participants with low systolic BP.
CONCLUSIONS: Faecal microbiota composition is associated with BP, but with strongly divergent associations between ethnic groups. Intriguingly, while Dutch participants with lower BP had higher abundances of several SCFA-producing microbes, they had lower faecal SCFA levels. Intervention studies with SCFAs could provide more insight in the effects of these metabolites on BP.