Sunday, May 5, 2013

Another Reason for Meatless Mondays?

Posted By on Sun, May 5, 2013 at 9:13 AM

hamburger.jpg

Last month, scientists at the Cleveland Clinic gave us another reason to avoid red meat. In a small study, the researchers suggested a link between increased heart disease risk and a red meat substance called carnitine. Once free from suspicion, carnitine - a word that takes its root from the Latin word carnis (eg., carnivore) - finds its highest concentration in red meat (and is present in lesser amounts in fish, chicken, and dairy products).

The trouble with carnitine, according to this study, is that it becomes something perhaps more insidious once the bacteria in our guts take hold of it. Our intestinal flora quickly convert carnitine into another little-studied chemical called TMAO, which stands for Trimethylamine N-oxide. Additional studies by the same researchers found that people (and mice) with high blood carnitine or TMAO levels were at increased heart disease risk.

The studies give yet more meat to the argument that heart disease is more complex than most of us ever supposed. Saturated fat, cholesterol, sugar, and inflammation are major culprits - and now carnitine and TMAO may take their place on that infamous list.

But suspend your judgements: Additional research is sure to come, and contradictory studies about carnitine/TMAO (one published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings) have already emerged. For now, a little healthy skepticism about red meat - and more Meatless Mondays - can only be a good thing.

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