Gut Bacteria Compound tied to Heart Failure, Study Finds
A new study has uncovered evidence that explains how certain foods, such as red meat, can lead to heart disease. The team, headed by Stanley Hazen, MD, PhD, department chair of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at Cleveland Clinic's Lerner Research Institute, reported that when gut bacteria digest these foods, it leads to the production of a metabolite that can increase risk of heart failure.
For this study, the researchers recruited 720 patients who suffered from heart failure but were stable. The patients' blood levels of trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) were tracked for over five years. TMAO is a metabolite that is produced when the stomach's bacteria digest carnitine and choline. Carnitine is mainly found in red meats and choline can be found in high-fat dairy products as well as egg yolks. In animal studies, TMAO has been linked to transporting cholesterol to the arteries, forming plaques that can lead to cardiovascular disease.
The team wanted to see if TMAO levels could predict life quality and mortality risk. They found that patients with higher levels of TMAO had a 3.4-fold greater risk of death. Hazen concluded, "The impact of dietary manipulation and changes in gut microbe composition may be a way to impact the development and the adverse prognosis in heart failure."
He added, according to TIME, "What we are now trying to do is come up with a therapy that will prevent formation of TMAO, and hopefully prevent the development of cardiac disease...and the development of heart failure in its adverse prognosis. I like kind of joking around, I'm hoping to come up with the pill that allows me to keep eating steak."
The study was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.