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Amino Acid Found In Red Meat Linked to Heart Disease

Most studies looking at the link between red meat consumption and heart disease have focused on the high saturated fat and preservative levels of red meat. A recent study, however, suggests that L-carnitine - an amino acid found in red meat - may also increase the risk of heart problems.

Participants in the study included 2,595 participants undergoing cardiac evaluation. The researchers found that there is a specific gut bacterium that metabolizes L-carnitine into trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO). TMAO has been shown in previous studies to contribute to the hardening of arteries, thereby increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke, and heart attack.

The researchers also found that diets high in L-carnitine actually promote the growth of the bacteria that metabolizes L-carnitine into TMAO. Meat eating participants in the study saw an increase in TMAO production after consuming L-carnitine. Vegetarian and vegan participants, however, did not produce high levels of TMAO, even after consuming a significant amount of L-carnitine.

Ultimately, the researchers found that a combination of high levels of L-carnitine combined with high levels of TMAO led to a higher risk of heart disease.

Researchers at Cleveland Clinic conducted this study. It was published online ahead of print on April 7, 2013, in Nature Medicine.

L-carnitine is a naturally occurring amino acid and your body does not need more than it can make itself. If you’re worried about L-carnitine intake, be careful when consuming red meat, as well as energy drinks and certain weight loss supplements as it can be found in some of those products.

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