It has been known for some time that frequent consumption of red meat increases the risk of atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a process in which the walls of the blood vessels harden and plaque is deposited on the vessel walls, making blood flow more difficult. Which can lead to infarctions and aneurysms. Statistical research had already shown that this condition occurs more often in meat eaters than in vegetarians and vegans. However, an explanation for this was still lacking. This now appears to have changed due to a study at the Cleveland clinic(1).
Conversion by intestinal bacteria
The researchers compared the research reports of 2,595 patients who had undergone cardiac examination. It showed that the intestines of meat eaters produce significantly more TMAO (trimethylamine-N-oxide) than the intestines of vegetarians. This is caused by intestinal bacteria converting the L-carnitine present in the meat into TMAO, which was already known to promote atherosclerosis.
Especially recommended for heart disease
According to this research, the culprit is the L-carnitine present in meat. A remarkable fact because L-carnitine is often recommended to support good heart function. The famous Linus Pauling Institute even recommends L-carnitine supplementation as a supportive treatment for myocardial infarction, heart failure, and angina pectoris (2). Supplement suppliers also highly recommend the use of L-carnitine, for better fat burning, but also for heart function. On bodybuilding sites, L-carnitine is recommended, among other things, for stronger bones and muscles, better fat burning, and to improve the condition of the heart (3).
For some, but not for others?
Is it a consequence of the research in Cleveland that all these health claims regarding L-carnitine can be called into question? Reality is probably once again too complex to draw such an unambiguous conclusion. Perhaps L-carnitine is a poison for one person and exactly what he/she needs for another. People with a predisposition to atherosclerosis may do well to limit their intake of L-carnitine, but a patient suffering from heart weakness may benefit from it. Which in turn argues for the idea of not just eating a lot of red meat or taking supplements, but first consulting an expert. This will usually have to be an orthomolecular physician, a dietician or complementary medicine, because the knowledge of doctors about foods is usually poor.