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Fat, Meat and the Heart

After last week’s article on TMAO, I found a new study recently published in the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA) regarding carnitine, an amino acid found exclusively in meats of all kinds (including fish and chicken). It turns out, that carnitine gets linked to certain fats in the blood after you eat meats. This carnitine is then called acylated carnitine (fatty acids are called acyl groups). The fats that link to carnitine are the saturated fats found in cheese, pizza, donuts, ice cream and chicken.

It had already been established that high circulating levels of these byproducts were associated with type 2 diabetes. We already know that people with diabetes have a markedly increased risk of heart disease and heart attack, but nobody had tested whether there was an association between these acylated carnitines and heart disease.

It turns out that among people with suspected heart disease, those with elevated levels of these conglomerations of fat and meat had much higher risks of death from heart disease and heart attacks. Three different variants of the molecules were analyzed and all increased risk by over 50% above people with lower levels, even when those people had the same age, levels of smoking, cholesterol, diabetes and other traditional risk factors for heart attack and death.

As far as I know, this is the first study to link both amino acids from meat (carnitine) and fatty acids from meat (saturated fat) to sudden death from heart attack, but the deaths of some celebrities after large, fatty, meaty meals seems to confirm this risk.

You can never get rid of all carnitine and saturated fat, because your body makes both of them, even if you never eat them. But you can certainly minimize the exposure to this harmful mixture by avoiding the foods that contain large amounts of both (meats of all types).

Healthy populations from the Blue Zones all have diets that are centered on plant-based foods, with very low levels of animal protein and saturated fat consumption. So they naturally and without effort have very low levels of these acylated carnitines. They enjoy their rice, peas, beans, sweet potatoes, lentils with fruits and vegetables. Because of this they have the longest, healthiest lives on earth. We all should try to follow the same plan.


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