New Study Finds Gut Bacteria Can Cause Heart Attacks and Stroke

By Cynthia Thaik, M.D.

Heart disease remains the number one killer in America. Nowadays, after several studies and research we know how to reduce cholesterol, treat blood pressure, and reduce cardiac risks through diet, exercise, and other interventions, but missing data still remains on how to attack heart disease. Scientists search to solve the mystery and get answers as to why thousands of heart attack victims each year have none of the common risk factors before their emergency incident.

According to a recent study from Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute, a microbial byproduct of gut bacteria contributes to heart disease and may be used as a valuable tool for predicting the risk of heart attacks, stroke, and even death. This study recently released found that foods containing lecithin- such as eggs (especially egg yolk), dairy products, meats, soy products, and wheat germ – are converted into chemical compounds known as Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) by gut bacteria. TMAO is an artery-clogging compound that affects the metabolism of cholesterol.
The new study builds on a 2011 Cleveland Clinic discovery that also reports people with high levels of TMAO are more likely to have heart disease. To see whether TMAO predicts cardiovascular events, researchers analyzed levels of TMAO in 4,007 heart patients. After accounting for common risk factors such as age and past heart attack history, they found that high levels of TMAO were predictive of heart attack, stroke, and death over the three years that the patients were followed.

Previously, the Cleveland Clinic had also reported that gut bacteria can transform carnitine, a nutrient found in red meats and dairy products, into TMAO. Based on their research, vegetarians produced much less TMAO, suggesting that avoiding animal products may help reduce gut bacteria that turns into TMAO.
More studies are still needed to confirm that TMAO testing, like lipid panel testing or glucose levels, might reliably predict cardiovascular risks. For now, the goal is to simply make public aware that research shows consumption of eggs, meat, and other animal products when digested by gut flora can generate TMAO and may contribute to higher risks of cardiovascular disease.

References:
Cleveland Clinic. “New Link Between Common Fat, Gut Bacteria and Heart Disease Discovered.” my.clevelandclinic.org
Huffington Post. “Gut Bacteria Implicated In Heart Attacks, Stroke.” http://huff.to/13vqwSc

About the author

Dr. Cynthia Thaik, M.D. is a Harvard-trained cardiologist serving the greater Los Angeles community at her holistic health center in Burbank and Valencia, CA. Dr. Thaik is the author of Your Vibrant Heart: Restoring Health, Strength, and Spirit from the Body’s Core. To learn more about Dr. Thaik or the Holistic Healing Heart Center, or to schedule an appointment, please contact info@drcynthia.com or call (818) 842-1410.