Developing a Breath Test for Cardiovascular Disease - Using Gas Chromatography
Jan 31 2020
Too much body fat can be bad for your health leading to many different health conditions. But we cannot always see or feel the fat stored in our bodies. It is possible to have a good physique with a fairly flat stomach and still have fat. Visceral fat is fat that is stored within our abdominal cavity around our internal organs like the liver and pancreas.
A recent paper published in the Journal of Breath Research reports on a possible link between visceral fat and breath methane concentration. In the paper - Association between breath methane
concentration and visceral fat area: A population-based cross-sectional study - the authors report on how they used chromatography to establish a link between breath methane and visceral fat. The authors suggest that a simple non-invasive test could be developed to help reduce the impact of cardiovascular disease.
It lies below the abdominal wall
Visceral fat is stored inside the abdominal cavity. Accumulation of visceral fat is associated with an increased risk of getting hypertension, high blood glucose and obesity. Research suggests that these conditions are more closely associated with visceral fat than with subcutaneous fat or other measures of health like body mass index or BMI. Reducing visceral fat then can only be good for our health.
Microbiota breaths out methane
The understanding of our gut microbiota is still in its infancy. There has been researching linking the bacteria in our guts to heart disease and inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis - as well as obesity. The mechanisms linking our microbiota to obesity are not yet known but have been investigated by a genome-based approach.
Although visceral fat is a better predictor of cardiovascular disease than BMI it is difficult to carry out such a study. The best method for measuring visceral fat is to use computerised tomography (CT) which is expensive and exposes participants to radiation. Some studies have evaluated the relationship between breath methane and BMI - the team behind the research referenced above investigated the relationship between breath methane and visceral fat.
Chromatography analyses the methane in your breath
The team analysed the breath of over 1000 participants in Japan. The breath was analysed for methane using gas chromatography. The use of chromatography in health research is a topic also discussed in the article, Drug Adulterants in Complementary Health Products by High Performance Liquid Chromatography/Diode Array Detection/Mass Spectrometry.
The team found a significant association between visceral fat content and breath methane in the study participants. But what the study also highlighted is that we don’t all have the same gut bacteria - so the team had to split the participants into two groups depending on the whether their gut microbiota were methane producing species. But the study does show that in future - for some people - a simple breath test could reveal their risk factor to cardiovascular disease.
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