(NaturalNews) New research has shown that a substance which can be found in red meat and as an ingredient in energy drinks triggers atherosclerosis or the hardening and clogging of arterial blood vessels.
The scientists behind the research claim that the bacteria found in the digestive tract change the compound referred to as carnitine, into TMAO (trimethylamine-N-oxide). Prior studies by the same group of Cleveland Clinic researchers found that TMAO raises the development of atherosclerosis in humans.
The research further shows that a diet that contains increased levels of carnitine further boosts the development of the bacteria that help to metabolize the substance, contributing to heightened TMAO production.
According to Dr. Stanley Hazen, the head of the research and of preventive cardiology and rehab in Heart and Vascular Institute of the Cleveland Clinic and also the vice chairman for translational research of the Lerner Research Institute, the kind of bacteria that is present in the digestive tract are determined by semi-permanent dietary patterns. If the diet is rich in carnitine, this changes the composition of gut microbe to those that prefer carnitine, therefore those who are fond of eating meat are more likely to form TMAO and be affected by its consequences, including atherosclerosis.
The research involved almost 2,600 patients who were submitted to heart evaluations. The study discovered that systematically high levels of carnitine were linked to a higher risk of heart-related diseases, heart attack, stroke, and death.
They further discovered that TMAO levels are much lower in vegetarians and vegans compared to those who eat both meat and vegetables. Vegetarians are individuals who restrict themselves from eating meat while vegans are those who do not consume nor use animal products such as milk and eggs.
In the recent issue of the Nature Medicine journal, the study showed that despite consumption of a high concentration of carnitine, the vegans and vegetarians did not show substantial levels of TMAO, however the omnivores did.
Hazen said that, despite the fact that the study could not provide a direct link between heart damage and carnitine, the results may allow for new agreements when it comes to the gains from a vegetarian and vegan lifestyle. Vegans and vegetarians are less likely to synthesize the TMAO from carnitine, which shows the health effects of these lifestyles when it comes to heart health.
Dr. Robert Rosenson, a heart disease expert, said that poor dietary habits can increase the TMAO levels as well as the capability of allowing cholesterol to enter the arteries as well as the disability of the body to get rid of too much cholesterol.
Dr. Tara Narula, another heart disease expert, said that this new research will incite knowledge that many energy drinks can be as damaging as red meat, which was not recognized before by consumers.