Researchers have now identified one new reason to limit your red meat consumption for good health. This time the reason is that it elevates the levels of a gut-generated chemical called trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO). This chemical is linked directly with heart problems.
The new study tells that people who a diet full of red meat have triple the TMAO levels of those who eat read meat moderately. Either they eat a diet rich in white meat or they follow a plant-based proteins diet. But one thing is clear that limiting the red meat eventually brings the TMAO levels down.
For those who don’t know TMAO is a dietary byproduct that your gut bacteria produce during the process of digestion. Most of it part comes from red meat. As you know, the trans fats of red meat increase the risk of heart disease, studies tell that TMAO also contributes to it.
There was not much research on typical dietary patterns that affect TMAO production or elimination. But the latest research finding suggests keeping a record of TMAO levels.
What is this study about?
It only takes a blood test to know the TMAO levels of a person. If people start to follow it, it may become a new strategy for preventing heart diseases. This particular study is performed by National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health. It is published in European Heart Journal, that is a journal of the European Society of Cardiology.
Studies like these reinforce the importance of a balanced diet. It encourages people of all ages to follow a heart-healthy diet that has limited red meat. Adding a combination of various food products mean your body will enjoy a variety of foods.
Foods like red meat may dramatically affect the TMAO level, contributing to heart problems. Many of the middle-aged Americans have an unusually high TMAO level, which because of chronic red meat consumption.
However, every person has a different TMAO profile, depending upon what he eats and how much he eats.
Study protocol and findings
For this study, 113 healthy individuals were considered for a trial to investigate the effects of dietary protein in red meat, white meat, and non-meat food sources. All of these were studied for TMAO production.
The participants of this study were given a specific diet each month, randomly. During the red meat diet, most of the people consumed approximately 8 ounces of steak daily or two quarter-pound beef patties.
After one month, the research team checked the TMAO level. They found that on average, blood levels of TMAO in these people were very high. The levels were almost triple as compared to TMAO levels when they were on white meat diet or non-meat diet.
Note that all diets had the same calorie count. Half of these individuals were given high-fat versions of the same three diets. The results were more or less the same. Thus the effects of protein source on body’s TMAO levels were independent of the fat intake of each participant.
One surprising fact is that the research team found that elevated TMAO levels were reversible. When these participants stopped taking red meat diet and shifted to another one, the TMAO levels gradually decreased. The mechanism that controls it is complex and unexplained.
The previous research tells that TMAO increases cholesterol accumulation in the artery wall. These studies also suggest that TMAO interacts with platelets that increase the risk of blood clot-related diseases for example heart attack and stroke.
The measurement of TMAO is a quick, simple and easy test. The recent research shows promising effects in developing a new class of drugs that are capable of lowering TMAO levels in the blood. This way it reduces the risk of atherosclerosis and clotting diseases in animal models. These drugs are still in the trial phase and are not available for public use.