Cleveland Clinic researchers recently suggested that the major cause of heart disease is an obscure chemical called TMAO. While it was previously thought that the saturated fat and cholesterol in steaks leads to an increased risk of heart attacks, according to findings published in Nature Medicine, the two are only minor contributions. After studying more than 2,500 individuals, researchers proposed TMAO––a byproduct released when intestinal bacteria metabolizes the compound carnitine––keeps the body from expelling excess cholesterol and allows cholesterol to leak into artery walls. Though carnitine’s primary source is red meat, it is also present in chicken, fish, and dairy products, and is used by the TMAO-producing bacteria as fuel.
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