Eating Red Meat is bad news

By Dr Harold Gunatillake - Health Writer

Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) test to check on risk of serious heart problems

When you are admitted to Casualty as an emergency with chest pain, doctors, in addition to performing various investigations does a test to measure the blood levels of a molecule called trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO). Positive results of this test are a sure sign of a heart attack or even death. Prognosis and seriousness of the episode can be assessed by the medical team, from this test alone.

This study was published in the European Heart Journal (Jan.10:2014)

TMAO is naturally found in fish at high levels. Humans do not produce this compound, but it is the gut microbes called firmicutes help convert the nutrient choline (from eggs) and carnitine from meat to produce this compound.

There are over ten trillions of beneficial microbiota in our gut looking after our health and welfare, breaking down of our food to feed them and us. All gut microbes love high fibre food (prebiotics) and fermented foods with certain bacterial cultures as in Kombucha, Kimchi, kefir, yogurt, miso and others. (Probiotics). Firmicute bacteria are a special kind of gram positive bacteria with thick walls found in the large gut among the other microbes.

If you eat meat and eggs regularly, the thick walled gut bacteria called firmicute produce TMAO from choline and carnitine respectively, as mentioned earlier.

It has also been revealed that those who eat meat, dairy and eggs have elevated TMAO levels in the blood and also higher levels of firmicute bacteria in the gut.

Compound TMAO seems to be an ‘inflammatory’ molecule and increased levels in your blood cause peripheral artery disease (PAD), increased risk of blood clots and increased cardiovascular death and mortality.

It was found that when patients are seen with chest pain caused as a result of heart disease the TMAO levels in the blood seem to be very high. It was revealed that with such high TMAO levels the prognosis of the condition can be assessed. Those having very high levels are likely to die, have a heart attack or stroke or need blood vessel surgery soon.

Do not confuse this compound with troponin T levels done on patients with chest pain. The researchers also found that a patient who did not appear to have elevated levels of troponin T when they first arrived at the hospital, those with high TMAO levels had a six-fold higher risk of a major adverse cardiovascular event.

Among vegans the TMAO levels in the blood are insignificant.

Conclusions: Be aware that eating too much of red meat, dairy and eggs can increase the firmicute germ in your gut that produces excess amounts of the harmful TMAO in your blood. The level of this compound is high among those having heart attacks, stroke, and blood clots in the arteries.

This article does not discourage you from eating red-meat treats, eggs or dairy, but emphasis the awareness of the dangers and to moderate your requirements
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