In just a matter of weeks, researchers have reported another link between foods people eat and heart attack causing gut bacteria. Just a couple of weeks ago, reports emerged that a compound called Carnatine, found in red meat, has the potential to increase a person’s risk of heart attacks. Now, further research has linked this substance to eggs, as well.
The culprit in eggs, lecithin, has been shown to produce the same kind of reaction to gut bacteria as carnatine. It starts when a person consumes lecithin. As this compound is digested it turns into choline. The choline is metabolized by the bacteria in the intestines, and the resulting substance is converted to TMAO, or Trimethylamine N-oxide. The studies have found that higher levels of this substance in the body are linked to an increase in risk of stroke and heart attack.
On Wednesday, The New England Journal of Medicine published a paper on lecithin and found that when this compound is digested, it reacts to the bacteria found in the intestines much in the way that carnatine does. This reaction has been linked to heart disease.
The lead researcher of the study, Dr. Stanley Hazen said, “Heart disease perhaps involves microbes in our gut.” Dr. Hazen is the chairman of the cellular and molecular medicine department at Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute.
The research on lecithin was a two part study. Dr. Hazen first had volunteers eat two hard boiled eggs and then tested their levels of TMAO. Then, he gave them antibiotics that would wipe out the intestinal bacteria and had them eat two hard boiled eggs again. This time the TMAO was not present.
For the second part of the study, Hazen studied 4,000 people who had been treated at the Cleveland Clinic. The higher the levels of TMAO in their blood, the more likely it was that the patient would have a stroke or heart attack within three years.
While the studies did not consider whether or not reducing the amounts of TMAO in the diet would help to reduce the risk for heart disease, Dr. Hazen has suggested that those looking to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke might find that reducing the amount of lecithin and choline in the diet is the first step.
How does one reduce these substances from the diet? Simply, cut down on the amount of fat and cholesterol and eliminate supplements that might contain choline or lecithin.
Of course, it’s essential to make sure to get enough exercise and plenty of sleep, and reducing stress can go a long way toward reducing the risk for heart disease, as well. For now, the evidence is strong, and gut bacteria may have a strong link, but the key is to work with the overall diet and use what the body has in a beneficial way in a quest for complete overall health.