Red meat, heart risks and carnitine - new information

Paula Duffy's picture

Cholesterol and saturated fat in red meat raise the risk of heart disease, but now researchers have determined that carnitine makes matters worse.

Carnitine is a compound found in almost all cells of the human body, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

In fact carnitine can be found in some energy drinks and is sold as separately as a dietary supplement.

A new study offers evidence that it is the high levels of carnitine present in red meat that may explain the true risk of heart disease rather than merely the cholesterol and saturated fat content.

The research findings from the Cleveland Clinic, as published in National Medicine also help doctors explain why two people with the same level of LDL cholesterol can have quite different levels of risk for developing heart disease.

As reported over the weekend at the Wall Street Journal, Dr. Stanley Hazen, the lead researcher on the study believes that how carnitine is metabolized in the body is the key.

"Cholesterol is still needed to clog the arteries, but TMAO changes how cholesterol is metabolized—like the dimmer on a light switch," he said.

According to a report in Forbes, "...digestive tract bacteria metabolize carnitine into trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO), which has previously been linked to atherosclerosis in mice."

In people who have consumed red meat for many years, the effect of eating a meal-sized portion of meat on carnitine levels in the body was much higher than those, like vegetarians and vegans who have not.

Not only does that point to the health benefits of those eating regimes, but it highlights the key element in linking carnitine with cardiovascular disease.

“The bacteria living in our digestive tracts are dictated by our long-term dietary patterns,” said Dr. Hazen.

If such a link exists, between ingestion of carnitine and heart health, why would it be sold as a supplement or included in energy drinks?

It turns out that carnitine is significant in producing energy in the human body. When the human body isn't producing enough carnitine on its own ingestion of the compound may provide relief.

The NIH reports that some clinical results have shown that a cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy could be helped by a carnitine supplement, in addition to some Type-2 diabetes patients and those with HIV.

In an interview to announced the findings, Dr. Hazen admitted to being a meat eater, but as a result of his study has decreased the amount he consumes.

Image: Wikimedia Commons


Submitted by marie lockie (not verified) on
Seeing this occurs in only part of population why not try to correlate it with some other markers- eg D'Adamo claims statisitically blood Type A is much more likely to do better without red meat (less heart and cancer disease, tho he debars milk as well) than Type O who he says thrive on it. (no milk either) (As O- I detest fish and chicken and love even raw meat- and tho severe heart failure (iatrogenic radiation damage) am outstandingly better than most in my condition. So may the furry arteries be mostly in blood type A, and perhaps Type AB? So can I go on eating red meat please.

Submitted by marie lockie (not verified) on
On furesomide for preventing water retention in heart failure. Adding 4 caps carnitine, 1.2grams daily with high protein meals eliminated need for the diuretic. fore this blood tpe O person It also allows more exercise.

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