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Bacteria in the Intestines Linked to Heart Attacks

It may come as no surprise that there is a conspicuous correlation between the food that people eat and their risk for heart attack and heart disease. While we often link the type and amount of food as the driving factor for heart health complications, researchers have now linked bacteria in the intestines to an increased risk of heart attack, focusing primarily on carnitine and lecithin.

Meat and Egg Connoisseurs…Beware?

Red meat has taken a hard hit over the last few months as researchers continue to point to heart complications associated with carnitine and red meat consumption. In a recent article published by the New York Times, the same is being said for lecithin—a substance found most commonly in egg yolk.

On April 24th, 2013, The New England Journal of Medicine published its most recent study of lecithin in relation to the body’s bacteria and the role that it plays in one’s overall health and well-being, including coronary artery disease.

The study included just over 4,000 patients over a 3 year period, all undergoing elective coronary angiography–a test to visualize blood in the coronary arteries.

According to Dr. Stanley Hazen, chairman of the department of cellular and molecular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute, heart disease could perhaps involve bacteria residing in our digestive system—including the stomach and intestines.

The Main Culprits Associated with Diminished Coronary Health

Carnitine is a compound found in red meat while lecithin, as previously mentioned, is a substance found in egg yolk. Both are chemically related and produce the chemical choline when digested—it is then converted by the liver into trimethylamine N-oxide, (TMAO) for short.  It is the high levels of TMAO in the bloodstream that are linked to the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Sound like too much to take in at once? Although the study does show TMAO as a leading factor in one’s heart health, Dr. Hazen suggests that a much more detailed study would have to be done to specifically pin the definitive heart health benefits of reduced levels of TMAO.

To conclude the findings of the lecithin study, it is recommended for individuals worried about heart attack and stroke to consider limiting the amount of foods high in fat and cholesterol such as red meat and egg yolks. If taking vitamins and supplements for additional nutrients but aiming to reduce the intake of choline, be cautious of choline present in the vitamins and supplements.

If you are concerned with your heart health and would like to request a consultation with a heart doctor, click here.



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