Red Meat And Heart Disease: What Does New Study Tell Us About Carnitine Chemical?

By iScience Times Staff on April 8, 2013 8:12 PM EDT

red meat
Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic discover carnitine causing heart disease, not fat. (Photo: Creative Commons)

Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic discovered it's the carnitine in red meat that's causing heart disease, not the saturated fat and cholesterol previously believed to be the culprits.

The study, published Sunday in Nature Medicine, states that L-carnitine, a chemical in red meat, is responsible for atherosclerosis, a disease of the artiereis that causes plaque to build up, thereby preventing oxygen-rich blood from getting to the body's organs. Researchers evaluated 2,595 patients who were having heart exams, CBS News reports, and they found that higher levels of carnitine meant an increase risk for stroke and heart attack, among other complications.

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In a statement released on Sunday, researchers said that bacteria living in our digestive tracts matabolize carnitine and turn it into trimethylamine-N-oxide, or TMAO, which previous studies have shown is linked to the production of atherosclerosis in humans.

From the statement:

[Our] research finds that a diet high in carnitine promotes the growth of the bacteria that metabolize carnitine, compounding the problem by producing even more of the artery-clogging TMAO.

My Health News Daily reports that carnitine is also found in poultry and fish, and is even present in over-the-counter diet supplements and is branded as a muscle builder and energy booster.

According to Medical Food News, ground beef contains 84mg of cholesterol per 100g; pork tenderloin contains 94mg; lamg, 89mg. Chicken has about 73mg per serving, and salmon about 72mg.

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