So two years ago Stanley Hazen published a paper saying the compound TMAO is linked to heart disease.
When mice were fed more of it, their risk for atherosclerosis went up.
It turns out the stuff is normally created when gut bacteria break down some foods.
So in a new study, Stanley makes this mental leap: Red Meat is something people eat, passes through the gut, and is associated with heart disease.
-Maybe there’s something in there that gets turned into that TMAO from 2 years ago?
So he gave a bunch of students some red meat, tested their blood for the chemical, and voila! -Elevated TMAO-Levels.
So then, to check if the instigator was or was-not bacteria-related, He then re-ran the experiment, but gave the students Wide-Spectrum Antibiotics.
Result? No. TMAO. Increase. BOOM!
And now in the spirit of tracking down the details further:
Guess what Stan’s intuited-culprit and Red Meat’s signature and highest-concentration amino acid is?
The study later goes on to show that mice which had been supplemented Not with red meat, but with L-Carnitine Alone, had much higher levels of TMAO AND ALSO Heart Disease than the OEM-spec critters.
Worse Still, the high L-Carnitine mice developed elevated-levels of the bacteria that convert it into TMAO, so they made much more in-turn.
AND, when tested as a foil, Vegetarians turned out to be Really Bad at converting L-Carnitine into TMAO; -they just didn’t have as much of that bacteria to do it.
Now before we get all crazy:
What the researchers Don’t seem to know yet, is the All-Important Combination Of Factors.
What balance of 1 or more gut bacteria versus another in what people who eat what mix of food regularly results in elevated atherosclerosis risk?
Is it just red meat eaters in-general?
Processed-only red meat or un-processed?
Is it people who eat red meat and eat or even Drink fast carbs?
Is it people who eat animals that were corn+grain-fed and finished?
What is the TMAO profile of people who eat organic grass-fed beef?
-Or even those who get a Paleo Diet and virtually no fast carbs at all?
*The most important part of this research is that they showed that the lowly-and-almost-never-studied Gut Bacteria can have an impact on much bigger health issues than just looking at diet-components alone would suggest.
(Last time we heard from Stanley, it was about Lecithin and Choline)
It’s still early days and the correlation with TMAO and heart disease seems directly-proportional and without a known counterbalance.
So for now, the safe side of things still seems to be eating less red meat.
The study even shows your personal microbiome will adapt and you’ll have less of the bacteria that convert things to TMAO as a result, too.
Check out the links for more & interesting details:
“jellyheart”, by Carlo Winkelmann, blog.hamburg-bruncht.de/
“fountain in the night”, by Marcos Fiat
• Source Study: Journal Nature: – Intestinal microbiota metabolism of l-carnitine, a nutrient in red meat, promotes atherosclerosis
• via: Wired
• More Coverage: HMS L-Carnitine | HMS Red Meat Moderation | Journal Circulation: Processed vs. Unprocessed Red Meat | Mayoclinic – L-Carnitine post-heart-attack Mayo PDF
PS: Note for people who take supplements in Pill or Energy-Drink form: The researchers suggest L-Carnitine supplements may be both unnecessary and dangerous.
[follow-up question: what can we do to run the equation in reverse? is there a gut bacterium, a phage or a nutrient or amino for that?]