Dec. 11 (UPI) -- Regular red meat consumption can lead to the accumulation of a gut level chemical that causes heart disease, a study says.
Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic say that red meat triples the level of trimethylamine N-oxide, or TMAO, a chemical associated with heart disease located in the human stomach.
Their study, published Monday in the European Heart Journal, that measured the TMAO levels in 113 healthy people rotated eating red, white and non-meat protein sources. For the red meat, they ate eight ounces of steak daily or two quarter-pound beef patties for a month.
During that time, researchers observed the participants TMAO levels increase three-fold versus white and non-meat sources.
"This study shows for the first time what a dramatic effect changing your diet has on levels of TMAO, which is increasingly linked to heart disease," said Stanley L. Hazen, study senior author and section head of Preventive Cardiology & Rehabilitation at the Cleveland Clinic, in a news release. "It suggests that you can lower your heart disease risk by lowering TMAO."
The researchers say about a quarter of middle-aged people in the U.S. have raised levels of TMAO, which only go higher after red meat consumption.
They also say people can reverse high TMAO levels lowering red meat consumption.
Hazen laboratory has developed a simple blood test to detect TMAO, and are testing drugs that can lower the chemical's level in the blood, which they say can lead to lower risk of atherosclerosis and clotting in animal models.
"These findings reinforce current dietary recommendations that encourage all ages to follow a heart-healthy eating plan that limits red meat," said Charlotte Pratt, a nutrition researcher and deputy chief of the Clinical Applications and Prevention Branch of the NHLBI. "This means eating a variety of foods, including more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy foods, and plant-based protein sources such as beans and peas."