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Red Meat and Heart Health

Science reveals the beef with beef.

Graphic of red meat in intestines

Many studies over the years have tied diets heavy in red meat to a heightened risk for mortality from cardiovascular disease. Now, research is trying to uncover the mechanisms responsible for this connection.

One possible explanation: Steak lovers may raise their risk of heart disease through a chain of events that plays out in the gut. A study in Nature Microbiology found that certain gut microbes, found in greater quantities in people who eat red meat, may be responsible for turning the dietary nutrient carnitine into the chemical trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO), which has been linked to cardiovascular disease risks through the acceleration of clogged arteries.

But how much red meat someone would need to eat to drive up TMAO levels to dangerous levels remains a question mark. And is this a concern if the occasional steak or burger is consumed within the confines of a diet rich in plant foods that promote better microbiome make-up? Time for more studies!

See also: Plant-Based Meat Substitutes on the Rise

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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