Feeding our gut bacteria meat may enhance heart disease risks

Ars Technica » Scientific Method 2013-04-12

Americans eat much more red meat than most other people, and Americans get a lot more cardiovascular disease than most other people. Red meat has lots of saturated fats and cholesterol, which causes cardiovascular disease, right? Not so fast. As with many commonly held assertions, especially in the field of nutrition, this one sounds good but does not quite have the data to support it.

Intestinal microbiota, or gut flora, are a trendy health topic right now; their importance has only been acknowledged in the past twenty years or so, but they have already been shown to impact such vital physiological processes as immune function and the development of cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Dietary choices—like the choice to eat red meat or not—are known to influence the relative ratios of the different bacterial species residing in our guts.

So researchers at the Cleveland Clinic decided to check out how different intestinal microbiota metabolize the components of meat. They found that bacteria present in the intestines of omnivores, but not present in the intestines of vegans or vegetarians, generate a molecule that promotes atherosclerosis when they are fed red meat.

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