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

Mugabe Dismisses Male-Female Equality

'It is not possible that women can be at par with men' incoming African Union president declares on eve of summit More

Somali Terror Suspect's Light Sentence Raises Questions

Abdullahi Yusuf, 18, could have spent 15 years in prison but judge instead sentenced him to a halfway house, and a program to try to integrate him back into the community More

Video Kobani Ravaged Following Kurdish Ouster of IS Militants

Even so, hundreds of refugees sheltering in Turkey seek to return; Kurdish forces hold some back, saying fighting continues More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid