New research details how red meat can elevate heart risk

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Americans are eating more red meat and new research is showing why that is creating an elevated risk of heart disease.

The American appetite for red meat hit an all-time high in 2018. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates the average person consumed the equivalent of about 800 hamburgers this year.

New research by the Cleveland Clinic reveals red meat can impact heart health disease risk. The evidence? A compound called TMAO.

"Individuals who eat a diet that's rich in red meat have a significant elevation in their TMAO level - about two- to three-fold above those who eat either a white meat for their protein source, versus a non-meat, which is predominantly a vegetable source, or a plant-based protein source," said the Cleveland Clinic's Dr. Stanley Hazen, who led the study.

TMAO is made by gut microbes during digestion. The compound is known to contribute to heart attacks and strokes.

Study participants were assigned to eat different types of proteins.

While researchers suspected red meat diet could raise TMAO levels, they were surprised to see just how much.

Hazen says when people stopped eating red meat, levels dropped to normal within three to four weeks.

Researchers believe if we change our diets we can change our heart disease risk.

"We can use a TMAO level to help personalize dietary choices in an individual to help identify, for a given person, how much is too much," Hazen said.

Researchers also found those who ate a white meat or plant-based protein diet actually had suppressed formation of TMAO, which supports previous research that says these types of diets are healthier for our hearts.
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