A new study says high levels of a gut-generated chemical called Trimethylamine N-oxide is another reason to limit red meat consumption.
TMAO is a dietary byproduct that is formed by gut bacteria during digestion and is derived in part from nutrients that are abundant in red meat.
According to the study funded by the US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), TMAO is linked to heart disease.
In a press release on Monday, the scientists said people who eat a diet rich in red meat have triple the TMAO levels of those who eat a diet rich in either white meat or mostly plant-based proteins.
However, discontinuation of red meat eventually lowers TMAO levels.
Findings suggest that measuring and targeting TMAO levels with a blood test may be a promising new strategy for individualising diets and helping to prevent heart disease.
Charlotte Pratt, NHLBI project officer, said: “These findings reinforce current dietary recommendations that encourage all ages to follow a heart-healthy eating plan that limits red meat.
“This means eating a variety of foods, including more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy foods, and plant-based protein sources such as beans and peas.”
Stanley Hazen, senior author of the study, said: “This study shows for the first time what a dramatic effect changing your diet has on levels of TMAO, which is increasingly linked to heart disease.
“It suggests that you can lower your heart disease risk by lowering TMAO.”
According to Hazen, every person’s TMAO profile appears to be different and tracking this chemical marker, could be an important step in using personalized medicine to fight heart disease.
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