Is red meat ruining your heart?

Published: May. 7, 2019 at 3:46 PM EDT
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Limiting red meat in your diet isn't just about controlling fat and cholesterol. One researcher has found a way to measure your risk for heart disease, and how your diet plays a huge role.

According to a recent Cleveland Clinic study, if steaks and burgers are a regular part of your diet, you might be putting yourself at serious risk for heart disease.

"How does this impact the development of a compound called TMAO, [which] stands for trimethylamine N-oxide. It's made by gut microbes and known to contribute to the development of heart disease, and what we found is that individuals who eat a diet that's rich in red meat have a significant elevation in their TMAO level," Dr. Stanley Hazen said.

Researchers studied 113 adults who got their protein from red meat, white meat or vegetable-based protein and found that TMAO levels tripled in the red meat eaters. Participants' kidneys were also affected.

"What we saw is that TMAO was less efficiently excreted or gotten rid of by the kidneys on a red meat diet and had improved elimination or excretion on the white meat or the plant-based diet," Hazen said.

The good news? TMAO levels return to normal two to three weeks after cutting red meat out of your diet. So, to protect your heart, these doctors recommend choosing chicken over beef.

TMAO enhances cholesterol deposits into cells of the artery wall and increases the risk of clot-related events, such as heart attack and stroke. A simple blood test can measure your TMAO level to help prevent heart disease.



REPORT #2640

BACKGROUND: According to The American Heart Association around 92.1 million American adults have some form of heart disease. Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) remains the main cause of death globally resulting in about 841,000 Americans dying in 2016. This number is alarming and people could easily decrease their chances of exposure by making healthier dietary choices. A healthy diet is made up of about 2,000 calories a day which includes a maximum of 120 of those calories that come from saturated fat; this is equivalent to 13 grams. Eating foods that contain saturated fats increases your risk of heart disease and stroke due to the level of cholesterol in your blood. A common misconception people have is that we need a "low-fat" diet, but fats are beneficial for health and should be included in your diet. However, it is important to know the difference between "good" fats, which are unsaturated and "bad fats", which are saturated. Saturated fats come naturally from animal sources such as red meat and dairy but can be substituted for meat containing less saturated fat such as lean meats, fish, and poultry without skin. (Source: and

PREVENTING HEART DISEASE: There are several things that can cause heart disease. Some diseases have an unknown cause or are biologically inherited but luckily, some heart conditions like heart attacks and strokes can be prevented based on your diet and lifestyle choices. The main way to prevent heart disease is to work on having a healthy lifestyle pattern. A simple change made to your diet can have a great impact on your health. Try to keep the consumption of saturated fats, high sodium food, and food with added sugar to the minimum if not completely out of your diet. Avoid stress, smoking, and drinking as all of these can factor into raising your blood pressure. Additionally, try to stay at a healthy weight, you can achieve this by exercising regularly and having a healthy diet, which includes eating fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and replacing red meats for lean meats. (Source:

ABNORMAL CARDIAC MITOCHONDRIA RELATED TO HEART DISEASE: An unhealthy diet is known to be a major factor when it comes to heart disease. In a recent study conducted by Washington University School of Medicine, scientists found that mice that had a high-fat high-sugar diet caused heart problems to their offspring. Even if the offspring maintained a healthy diet, they passed down traits such as abnormal cardiac mitochondria to at least two more generations. Mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell and therefore crucial to the energy of every cell of the body, this includes heart muscle cells. Additionally, the study suggests that mouse mothers are not the only ones who pass down diet-induced heart changes. "We know that obesity in pregnant mothers raises the risk of future heart problems for her children," said co-senior author Kelle H. Moley, MD, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology. "Now that we've shown that mouse fathers pass this down as well, we have to start studying changes in the DNA of the nucleus in both the egg and the sperm to make sure we understand all the contributing factors," Moley continued. (Source: