Well Being

Yikes! How Energy Drinks Could Be Causing Heart Disease

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woman holding energy drinkThe first question you might have upon reading this post's headline is WTF is a substance found in red meat doing in energy drinks? Or maybe you weren't asking that, because there's flame retardent in Gatorade and crushed beetles in candy so why not?

Regardless: A compound abundant in red meat is also frequently added to energy drinks, and it turns out to be one of the 9 billion things in our food that is potentially making us sick. UPI reports: 

Dr. Stanley Hazen of the Cleveland Clinic … said the bacteria living in the human digestive tract metabolize the compound carnitine, turning it into trimethylamine-N-oxide, or TMAO, a metabolite the researchers previously linked in a study to the promotion of atherosclerosis — hardening of the arteries.

Higher carnitine levels in study patients predicted higher risks for heart disease, heart attack, stroke and death, but only in people with concurrently high TMAO levels.

It all sounds a bit complicated and technical, but here's the important takeaway (in my humble opinion): A whole lot of things work together to cause clogged arteries, and we're just beginning to understand it. Saturated fat and cholesterol have been so demonized in the American war on heart disease, but clearly there are so many other substances and interactions that can wreak havoc.

Yet one of the most (and few) consistant findings in terms of diet and heart disease is the superiority of a plant-based diet. Vegetarians and vegans routinely perform better in research studies on all sorts of measures of heart health. And this one was no exception: Hazen and team found significantly lower TMAO levels in vegans and vegetarians compared to omnivores.

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