Bile may protect heart

New hope emerges in the fight against cancer and cardiovascular disease, following breakthrough research identifying a pigment in our bile.

A fluid produced by the liver and stored in the gallbladder, bile’s function was simply thought to aid in the digestion process. However, in conjunction with the University of Vienna and the Heart Research Institute in Sydney, Dr Andrew Bulmer from Griffith Health Institute has found a pigment in bile called bilirubin which could help to “stave off” cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Published in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine, the scientific report shows how Dr Bulmer and his team conducted a study with 44 participants, half of whom had Gilbert Syndrome, a syndrome showing naturally elevated levels of bilirubin in the blood and higher concentrations of antioxidants which can protect against disease.

“Analysis of blood revealed those study participants with Gilbert Syndrome had less free radical damage and consistently showed higher levels of antioxidants in their blood,” Dr Bulmer said.

“Naturally elevated bilirubin concentrations are clearly protecting persons with Gilbert Syndrome from processes implicated in disease initiation and progression. We are in a unique position to use this information to assist in preventing an array of diseases in Australia and beyond,” he explained.

According to Dr Bulmer, the findings could lead to a “future potential” for new drug, dietary and lifestyle interventions which could be used to “mildly increase” the concentration of bilirubin in people at risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.