Why red meat has a negative effect on the health of the heart
Intestinal bacteria produce substances that promote cardiovascular disease, such as heart attacks and strokes, in the digestion of red meat. Those who dispense with red meat in their diet can significantly reduce these harmful substances within three to four weeks and thereby also the risk of heart disease. These are the main findings of a recent study by Cleveland Clinic, one of America's best hospitals.
A research group from the Lerner Research Institute at the Cleveland Clinic recently looked at the impact of red meat consumption on human digestion and health. The team discovered that intestinal bacteria produce more of the trimethylamine oxide (TMAO) composition during the red meat digestion. High levels of TMAO in the organism are associated with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, the researchers said. The study results have recently been published in the "European Heart Journal".
Red meat affects our digestion
Although it is not new to recognize that red meat is not healthy, researchers at the Cleveland Clinic offer a new and detailed insight into the digestive processes and the relationship between the consumption of red meat and the health of the heart. So far, fats and cholesterol have primarily been held responsible for the harmful effects. The research team around Dr. Stanley Hazen now shows another harmful component that arises during the digestion process of red meat.
What do intestinal bacteria have to do with the health of the heart?
As the researchers report, intestinal bacteria produce a harmful substance called trimethylamine oxide (TMAO) when they digest the substances choline, lecithin and carnitine. These compounds are mainly found in red meat and liver, but also in other animal products. Cleveland Clinic physicians explain that high TMAO is a warning signal for a threatening heart condition and an increased risk of death.
The more red meat, the higher the TMAO value
The study also showed that the more red meat is eaten, the higher the TMAO value. If you take 25 percent of your daily calories from red meat, you have two to three times as much TMAO in your body, like people who eat vegetarian or white meat.
Double negative effect
For the study, participants agreed to buy 25 percent of their daily calories from red meat in a given period. During this time they were checked for their health. In addition to the increased TMAO values, it was also shown that the kidneys could no longer effectively remove the harmful substances when the TMAO concentration was too high. The consumption of red meat not only ensured that more TMAO compounds were present in the body – they also stayed longer in the organism.
The good news
However, the research group also has good news for meat eaters: after the participants ended the diet with red meat, the TMAO values returned to a normal level within three to four weeks. "This means that we can change the risk of heart disease by changing our diet," Dr. Hares in the press release about the study results.
White meat showed less harmful effects
According to the study, participants who received their protein from white meat or from plant sources showed significantly lower TMAO levels and better kidney function. Researchers recommend that red meat is avoided for the benefit of heart health. "We know that lifestyle factors are crucial for the health of cardiovascular diseases," says Hazen. The study provides further evidence of how dietary measures can be used as an effective treatment strategy. (Vb)