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article imageGut bacteria, food and heart attacks

By Tim Sandle     Apr 26, 2013 in Science
As gut bacteria digest certain foods, such as eggs and beef, they produce a compound that may in turn increase heart disease risk.
This finding, based on recent research reported on by the Daily Mail, suggest that gut bacteria may play a role in the development of heart disease. This is because when gut bacteria feed on certain foods, such as eggs and beef, they produce a compound that may in turn increase heart disease risk.
The compound is called trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO). TMAO has already been the subject of concern, whereby energy drinks have been linked to heart issues (as previously reported by the Digital Journal). TMAO is a colorless solid metabolite that has been linked to the promotion of atherosclerosis (hardening of clogging of the arteries). Therefore, TMAO could serve as a marker for predicting heart disease risk.
It is considered that bacteria convert the nutrients from certain food bases, like lecithin, into TMAO. This was the basis of the new study. For the research, scientists took blood samples from 40 adults before and after they ate two hard- boiled eggs, a common source of lecithin. After eating the eggs, their blood levels of TMAO were elevated. But if participants took antibiotics before eating the eggs, their TMAO levels were suppressed.
It is important to note that this is all predictive and based on correlation. the research in itself cannot prove that high TMAO levels cause cardiovascular disease. The research does, however, as the New York Times indicates, show the important role that the body and the bacteria that reside within it play in the development of diseases.
The new study was published by the New England Journal of Medicine. The paper is titled "Intestinal Microbial Metabolism of Phosphatidylcholine and Cardiovascular Risk".
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