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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Red Meat and Heart Disease: What's more dangerous saturated fat in the meat or the bacteria in your gut?

Research now shows a possible new link between red meat consumption and the development of heart disease.
It has been known for some time that high consumption of saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease. Dr. Stanley Hazen of the Cleveland Clinic, who led the new study recently published in the journal Nature Medicine, has accumulated evidence for a surprising new explanation of why red meat may contribute to heart disease.

Dr Hazen has found that the compound carnitine, which is found in red meat, is broken down by bacteria in the intestine to a metabolite called TMAO. TMAO leads to an enhanced capacity to deposit cholesterol in the cells of our artery walls.

Do all people have these bacteria in their gut? Dr Hazen has shown that when meat eaters consume red meat, they get a burst of TMAO in their blood stream. However, when vegan and vegetarians eat the same quantity of red meat, no TMAO can be found in their blood stream. It appears that our gut flora changes based on what we eat. If we do not eat red meat for at least as year (as the vegan and vegetarians) we lose the bacteria in our gut that feed on the carnitine and spew out TMAO. If we regularly eat red meat, we are regularly providing these bacteria with food and energy, they continue to flourish and spew out TMAO with each red meat meal -- increasing deposition of cholesterol in our arteries.
These findings have significant short terms and long term implications.
In the short term, we now understand just how and why it is important to limit or eliminate red meat from our diets. The less red meat we eat, the less TMAO producing bacteria we have in our gut, the less bacteria - the less TMAO in our blod and the less build up of plaque in our arteries.
In the long term, researchers may be able to develop a pill that will kill off the specific TMAO producing bacteria. This would dramatically increase the safety of eating red meat. Remember, red meat is not all bad -- it is an excellent source of protein and B vitamins.

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