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Gut Bacteria Probiotics Play a Role in Heart Disease?

Thousands of heart attack victims every year have none of the notorious risk factors before their crisis – many heart attack victims do not even have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or  unhealthy triglycerides. The real culprit seems to be a waste product burped out by bacteria in our guts as they help us digest lecithin — a nutrient in egg yolks, liver, beef, pork and wheat germ – and turn it into an artery-clogging compound called TMAO. Research has recently found that measuring levels of TMAO found in blood may help predict heart attack, stroke or death, and do so "independent of other risk factors" up to three years before an actual heart attack.

Saturated fats and cholesterol certainly can have a role in heart disease and stroke. But researchers had come to believe that what damaged hearts was not just the thick edge of fat on steaks, or the delectable marbling of their tender interiors. In fact, these scientists suspected that saturated fat and cholesterol made only a minor contribution to the increased amount of heart disease seen in red-meat eaters.

“[Some] people who have high cholesterol ... seem to never go on to develop heart disease. And then [some] others who have more modest levels of cholesterol ... have a very early heart attack.”

So the question: Would a burst of TMAO show up in people’s blood after they ate steak? And would the same thing happen to a vegan who had not eaten meat for at least a year and who consumed the same meal?

Researchers took Volunteers — a mix of omnivores, vegetarians and vegans — ate steak and L-carnitine capsules, and then measured TMAO levels in the blood. Only regular meat eaters could make TMAO from L-carnitine and they needed their gut bacteria to do it.

TMAO production shut down when researchers wiped out volunteers’ intestinal microbes with antibiotics. The intestinal microbes of vegetarians and vegans didn’t make much of the chemical, even when researchers fed them an 8-ounce sirloin steak, because they didn’t already have the gut bacteria in their system needed to make TMAO.

The effect of the antibiotics was only temporary — once the drugs were stopped, the bacteria and the TMAO came roaring back. That shows that the gut bacteria are crucial for producing TMAO.

Nobody suggests taking antibiotics as a solution to heart disease. But the findings could lead to new ways to prevent heart disease, not by eliminating gut bacteria, but by shifting their mix.

Perhaps a probiotic approach that would involve the intentional ingestion of certain types of bacteria that might alter the population of bacteria in the gut to one that is beneficial [could help]. Perhaps more importantly, the work focuses attention on the relationship humans have with the microbes that inhabit our bodies.

The study joins a growing list of findings that link human "microbiota" - microbes in the gut, nose and genital tract, and on the skin - to health and disease. Research has shown that certain species of gut bacteria protect against asthma, for instance, while others affect the risk of obesity. Last week scientists reported that circumcision alters bacteria in the penis, and that this change (not only the anatomical one) helps protect men from HIV/AIDS, probably by reducing the number of bacteria that live in oxygen-free environments such as under the foreskin.

Powering up on Energy Drinks and Body Building Pills? Stop before you Drop!

A nutrient found in red meat and added to energy drinks and supplements may crank up people’s risk of heart disease. The cuprit? L-carnitine. L-carnitine is often added to energy drinks on the assumption that is will speed fat metabolism and increase a person’s energy level. L-Carnitine might be affecting body builders and athletes who often take it because they believe it builds muscle.

It’s not dangerous by itself. Instead, the problem arises when it’s metabolized by bacteria in the intestines and ends up as TMAO in the blood.

High blood levels of the bacterial by-product of L-carnitine, called trimethylamine N-oxide or TMAO, were an “astoundingly good” warning sign of impending heart attack, stroke and death in that ensuing three-year period. The people with the highest TMAO levels seemed to have roughly twice the risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or death compared to those who had the lowest TMAO levels .

The findings are new and exciting and one message is clear, “L-carnitine is not good for you. It’s not good as a supplement and it’s not good in red meat. That’s one thing you can take to the bank.”

A test for TMAO, which will become commercially available this year, could give physicians a new tool for gauging heart disease isk.

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Dr. Iverson's Comment

THIS IS HUGE FOLKS! Hot off the press!  A new link to heart disease that could predict a heart attack within 3 years...and it's not cholesterol like we have been taught! Imagine this... prevent heart disease with PROBIOTICS ???

Our ancestors have been eating meat for thousands of years- yet they have also been eating food that is incredibly high in plants and fermented/decaying foods- therefore we want to reproduce this by increasing leafy green veggies and Nature’s version of probiotics found in foods like sauerkraut, kimchee, tempeh, kefir and even fermented fish and meats~ it is possible that a few strains of probiotics may theoretically raise TMAO but there are literally thousands of strains of healthy bacteria which live symbiotically as a population in our guts. The take home message is that by increasing foods that support our natural bacterial populations like vegetables and soluble fibers (flax seed, oatmeal, psyllium, etc) we can crowd out the unhealthy bacterial populations. Therefore a predominantly plant based diet as well as regular intestinal cleansing with herbs and colonic hydrotherapy can be preventative as outlined in Nature’s Diet book.

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