A new study published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology has found that certain chemicals produced by the gut microbiome after eating red meat likely contribute to a higher risk of developing heart disease.
The study included almost 4,000 participants in the US who were over 65 years old. During the study, intake of food from animal sources was measured along with several blood biomarkers. After a median of 12.5 years, researchers followed up with participants and measured factors such as their lifestyle, intake of foods from animal sources, socioeconomic status, and medical history including heart disease and related issues.
When intake of animal source foods was compared to the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, the researchers found that eating more meat, particularly red and processed meat, was linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. For every 1.1 additional servings per day, risk of cardiovascular disease increased by about 22%. Eating red meats also led to an increase in blood metabolites produced by the gut microbiome that are linked to heart disease; the researchers found that these increases explained about a tenth of the elevated risk of heart disease. While red and processed meats were linked to increased risk, there were no significant links between risk and intake of fish, poultry, or eggs.
While chemicals produced by the microbiome after red/processed meat consumption explain part of the increased risk of heart disease, they do not completely explain the effect. The study’s authors noted that the increased risk may also be due partially to effects on blood sugar and inflammatory pathways.