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Molecule in meat may increase heart disease risk

Gut bacteria transform compound into artery hardener

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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.

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