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The meat of the matter: Why red meat is so bad for your health

January 25, 2022 at 10:00 p.m.

James Blunt, English singer, songwriter and record producer, had a megahit, "Goodbye My Lover," that was recorded in Carrie Fisher's bathroom. But that isn't the most outrageous thing he's done. In the 1990s, to spite his vegan pals who he thought were wrong about the health risks of eating meat, he went on a two-month all-meat diet -- and developed scurvy. Consuming nothing but meat and condiments was a disaster.

But the lack of vitamin C (that causes scurvy, a disease characterized by swollen, bleeding gums and the opening of previously healed wounds) isn't all a meat-focused diet can do to you.

Research by Cleveland Clinic's Dr. Stanley Hazen, director of the Center for Microbiome & Human Health, shows that when gut bacteria digest certain nutrients abundant in red meat and other animal products there's a byproduct called carnitine that forms a chemical called TMAO (trimethylamine N-oxide). TMAO significantly increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Dr. Hazen's latest investigation into that process explains what happens during a two-step process used by your gut microbes that converts carnitine into TMAO, that nasty atherosclerosis- and blood-clot-promoting molecule. It also reveals that long-term vegetarians and vegans have low levels of the carnitine-converting microbe in their gut and therefore have virtually no ability to transform carnitine into TMAO. Plus, if you stop eating red meat, you eliminate TMAO-producing bacteria from your system in four weeks.

So stick with fresh or fresh-frozen, omega-3-rich wild salmon, skinless chicken and lots of vegetables, fruits and whole grains.

Health pioneer Michael Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer emeritus at the Cleveland Clinic and author of four No. 1 New York Times bestsellers. His next book is "The Great Age Reboot: Cracking the Longevity Code for a Younger Tomorrow." Do you have a topic Dr. Mike should cover in a future column? If so, please email [email protected]

(c)2022 Michael Roizen, M.D.

and Mehmet Oz, M.D.

King Features Syndicate

Print Headline: The meat of the matter: Why red meat is so bad for your health

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