A study published earlier this week in the New England Journal of Medicine, outlines a link between gut bacteria, diet and heart disease. When gut bacteria digests certain compounds found in red meat and eggs, a metabolite called TMAO (trimethylamine-N-oxide) is produced. High levels of blood TMAO are linked to the clogging of arteries, and may lead to a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. When patients received antibiotics to wipe out their gut bacteria there was no increase in blood TMAO levels. This suggests that TMAO is directly produced from gut bacteria. Researchers are now proposing the addition of TMAO testing to access the risk of heart disease. High cholesterol, high blood sugar, and other diet related illnesses are directly linked to an increase in the risk of heart disease. TMAO blood levels could be another substantial, yet treatable factor in determining heart disease risk.
This study does not suggest that eggs and red meat should be eliminated from the diet. We must, however, be more aware of the amount of these foods we are putting into our bodies, and the effects they could have on our future heart health.