The journal Nature Medicine has recently published a research that helps us understand why red meat is so bad for the heart. Red meat is full of a chemical substance carnitine that makes the arteries clog.
When carnitine reaches the stomach, it is converted into TMAO [trimethylamine-N-oxide] that has been previously proved to cause clogging of arteries.
The study was led by Stanley Hazen, M.D., Ph.D., Vice Chair of Translational Research for the Lerner Research Institute and section head of Preventive Cardiology & Rehabilitation in the Miller Family Heart and Vascular Institute at Cleveland Clinic, and Robert Koeth, a medical student at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University.
During the research, the team examined the carnitine and TMAO levels of people with different dietary preferences: omnivoresomnivores [eat all kinds of vegetables and meats], vegans [do not eat animal products] and vegetarians. Along with that, they studied the heart health records of the 2,595 individuals who had chosen to get their heart checked.
The results were quite interesting. Those with high carnitine levels as well as high TMAO levels were at a high risk of developing cardiac problems. There are some specific bacteria in the stomach that convert carnitine into TMAO. The researchers found that those eating red meat had more of this bacteria in the stomach than vegetarians and vegans. This indicates that even if vegetarians eat red meat once in a while, the low level of bacteria will make lesser TMAO, resulting in lower chances of heart trouble. However regular meat eaters have a large number of this bacteria and hence even small portions of carnitine are converted to TMAO with increased risk to the heart.
Hazen says, “Carnitine metabolism suggests a new way to help explain why a diet rich in red meat promotes atherosclerosis.”
We always knew that white meat [chicken and fish] is a healthier option for non-vegetarians than red meats. Now we also know why this is so important.