Heart Health: How red meat makes changes in the gut that can lead to Heart Disease?

A new study published in the Cell Press journal Cell Metabolism reports that gut bacteria change a nutrient found in red meat. The nutrient is turned into metabolites that higher the risk of developing heart issues.
Previous studies done by the Miller Family Heart, and Vascular Institute Cleveland Clinic reported a pathway by which red meat would promote a hardening of the arteries. What happens is the gut converts L-carnitine which is a nutrient that red meat has a lot of, into a metabolite called trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO). This particular metabolite supports the development of hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis.
In a study done by the researchers at the Cleveland Clinic, identified another metabolite, gamma-butyrobetaine that is generated after L-carnitine and helps further atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries.
This opens up the possibility of preventing atherosclerosis by possibly obstructing certain bacterial enzymes or creating a different environment in the gut with probiotics or other remedies. Whatever the case, more studies will be needed to see how gut bacteria is affected by ingesting red meat. In the meantime, if you are a big fan of red meat, I would encourage you limit your in-take to once a week if possible. If you would like more help with understanding what to eat or suggestions on managing your gut health, please do not hesitate to give my office a call.

Dr. Shah, MD



Cell Press. “Why does red meat increase risk for cardiovascular disease? Blame our gut bacteria.” ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141104121301.htm (accessed November 6, 2014).