News / Health

Chemical in Red Meat Linked to Heart Disease

Meat
Meat
Jessica Berman
Scientists may have uncovered another culprit in red meat, besides saturated fats and cholesterol that clog arteries contributing to heart disease - a chemical called carnitine.  Researchers have found tantalizing evidence that bacteria inside the body convert carnitine into a compound that hardens arteries, contributing to arteriosclerosis and increasing the risk of heart attack.

For years, doctors have recommended that patients limit their consumption of red meat, including steak and lamb, because it’s felt the marbled fat and cholesterol in the meat is a major contributor to cardiovascular disease, marked by the production of artery-clogging plaques that can lead to heart attack and stroke.

But experts say a diet rich in red meat is not the only risk factor for heart disease.  For example, not all individuals with high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol who eat a lot of steak, setting them up for heart disease, develop clogged arteries.

Now, researchers at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio have identified a chemical called carnitine that, when metabolized by gut microbes, produces a substance called TMAO - found to be elevated in red meat eaters, increasing their risk of heart disease.  

“The notion that there’s something more to red meat than just saturated fats has been banging around for a long while," said Stuart Seides,s chief of the MedStar Heart Institute in Washington.  "This is the first scientific link that may explain at least part of that association.”

Cleveland Clinic researchers studied more than 2,500 people, measuring their blood levels of carnitine after they ate a steak, as well as levels of the chemical byproduct TMAO.   

For the study, steaks were also consumed by vegetarians and vegans who eat no animal products, including eggs and cheese.  Investigators found that the red meat eaters had the highest levels of TMAO compared to the non-meat eaters who had little or no TMAO in their systems.   

Because vegetarians and vegans don't, as a rule, eat meat, it's thought the microbes in their guts couldn’t process the carnitine, turning it into TMAO.

In addition, researchers studied the substance in mice, finding that rodents fed diets high in TMAO developed hardening of the arteries. But when scientists suppressed the gut bacteria, the heart disease process was reversed.  

The MedStar Heart Institute’s Seides says it may someday be possible to limit cardiovascular disease using antibiotics to kill certain, still unidentified gut bacteria, to keep them from transforming carnitine into heart-disease causing TMAO.

“So that even if you eat meat, the carnitine doesn’t get converted into what is believed to be the offending agent.  So, much to learn and this is a very interesting and provocative study, and just peels back the onion a little bit on this very complex question of coronary heart disease,” he added.

Carnitine is found in smaller quantities in fish and poultry and in some vegetables and wheat, and some people take it as a supplement.  But beyond red meats which should be limited for other reasons, Seides says it’s too soon to recommend that people stop consuming foods containing carnitine.

An article on the link between the chemical carnitine, TMAO  and heart disease is published in the journal Nature Medicine.

You May Like

Photogallery Oxfam: Ebola Could Be 'Disaster of Our Generation'

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba, says the Caribbean island nation will 'gladly cooperate' with the US in the fight against Ebola in West Africa More

Multimedia Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

Refugees receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed More

India’s Ruling Nationalist Party Makes Gains in Regional Elections

Bharatiya Janata Party’s huge margin over its rivals puts it on course to form governments in the northern Haryana and western Maharashtra states More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fighti
X
Zana Omer
October 18, 2014 6:37 PM
The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.
Video

Video Church for Atheists Goes Global

Atheists, by definition, do not believe in God. So they should have no need of a church. But two years ago, a pair of British stand-up comedians decided to create one. Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans told the BBC they envisioned “something like church but without God". Their “Sunday Assembly” movement has grown from a single congregation in London to dozens of churches around the world. Reporter Mike Osborne visited with the members of a Sunday Assembly that now meets regularly in Nashville.
Video

Video Robot Locates Unexploded Underwater Mines

Many educators believe that hands-on experience is the best way to learn. Proving that the method works is a project developed by a group of students at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey. They rose up to a challenge posted by the U.S. Department of Defense and successfully designed and built an underwater robot for locating submerged unexploded ordnance. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's JFK Hospital Reopens After Temporary Ebola Exposure

JFK Hospital is Liberia’s largest and one of its oldest medical facilities. The hospital had to close temporarily following the deaths of two leading doctors from Ebola. It is now getting back on its feet, with the maternity ward being the first section to reopen. Benno Muchler has more for VOA News from Monrovia.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Expose Generation Gap

Most of the tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong are students seeking democracy. Idealistic youths say while the older generation worries about the present, they are fighting for the territory's future. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Hong Kong.
Video

Video Liberians Living in US Struggle From Afar as Ebola Ravages Homeland

More than 8,000 Liberians live in New York City, more than in any other city outside of Liberia itself. As VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports, with the Ebola virus ravaging their homeland, there is no peace of mind for these New Yorkers.
Video

Video Kurds See War-Ravaged Kobani As Political, Emotional Heartland

Intense fighting is continuing between Islamic State militants -- also known as ISIS or ISIL -- and Kurdish forces around the Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish border. The U.S. said it carried out at least nine airstrikes against Islamic State positions Friday. Meanwhile the U.N. has warned that hundreds of civilians would be massacred if the town falls to the militants. Henry Ridgwell looks at the strategic significance of the city.

All About America

AppleAndroid