The fats (lipids) that block arteries—which begins the process known as atherosclerosis, the hardening and thickening of arteries that can cause heart attacks and stroke —don't look like anything from animal or dairy produce, say researchers from the University of Connecticut. Instead they have all the hallmarks of lipids that originate from a specific family of bacteria that are most commonly found in our gums.
The bacteria, Bacteroidetes, shed lipids that are very distinctive—and because they are seen as alien by our immune system, our immune cells are sticking to blood vessel walls as a form of protection, and this could be the reason why arteries start to clog.
This also triggers the production of enzymes that break down Bacteroidetes, and this process kick-starts an inflammatory reaction—which is why heart disease is often seen as a disease of inflammation.
But the bacteria aren't from cholesterol-rich foods such as meat and dairy—instead, they are from our gums, the researchers think.
If so, it would certainly explain why it is that gum disease and heart problems seem to go hand-in-hand.