When you eat red meat, your gut produces a substance during digestion and metabolism called trimethylamine N-oxide, or TMAO. Studies have linked TMAO with heart disease, showing that those with higher levels of TMAO in their blood have a higher risk of heart attack, stroke, and early death.
A new study published in the European Heart Journal involved 113 men and women who followed a Standard American Diet (SAD) consisting of 49% carbohydrates, 14% protein, and 37% fat. The participants were divided into groups whose protein came either mostly from red meat, white meat, or plants. Those who ate mostly red meat protein were allowed about eight ounces a day, equivalent to a steak or two quarter-pound beef patties. The TMAO levels in their blood were measured after a month and found to be three times as high as those who ate mostly white meat or plant protein.
The researchers also found that just as TMAO levels were raised after a month of eating red meat, they also came back down after a month of not eating red meat. If you are currently consuming red meat regularly, it’s not too late to reduce or eliminate it from your diet. By eating less red meat and increasing your consumption of whole plant foods, you will not only reduce the amount of TMAO produced in your gut, but you will also increase the levels of beneficial gut bacteria that will work directly with your immune system to improve your health.