Molecule in meat may increase heart disease risk | Science News

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Molecule in meat may increase heart disease risk

Gut bacteria transform compound into artery hardener

9:13am, April 8, 2013

Drop that hamburger, put down the can of Monster Energy and back away from the body building pills.

A nutrient found in red meat and added to energy drinks and supplements may crank up people’s risk of heart disease, a new study suggests. Bacteria in the gut digest the nutrient, L-carnitine, and help turn it into an artery-hardening chemical — particularly in meat eaters, researchers report April 7 in Nature Medicine.

The intestinal microbes of vegetarians and vegans didn’t make much of the chemical, even when researchers fed them an 8-ounce sirloin steak.

“I always thought that what I ate mattered, but I never realized that my gut bacteria might matter more,” says biochemist Harry Ischiropoulos of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, who was not involved with the study.

What’s more, high blood levels of the bacterial by-product of L-carnitine, called trimethylamine N-oxide or TMAO, were an

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