A Mentor High graduate has helped lead a Cleveland Clinic team that may have identified a molecule in red meat -- as well as some energy drinks and body-building supplements -- that contributes to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Robert Koeth (the Mentor graduate,) along with Dr. Stanley Hazen, led the research team whose findings were published in Nature Magazine.
In short, the study explains why it might not just be the cholesterol and saturated fat in red meat that leads to health problems when indulged in excessively.
The study says that carnitine, a molecule in red meat, when digested by bacteria in our gut creates TMAO -- a chemical associated with atherosclerosis and heart disease.
A team led by (Dr.) Stanley Hazen and Robert Koeth tested the carnitine and TMAO levels in more than 2,595 patients. Those who ate the most meat or other foods containing carnitine had the highest levels of TMAO due to a greater amount of gut bacteria that metabolized the nutrient.
Vegetarians and vegans did not make as much TMAO because of the lower amount of bacteria they synthesized in response to limited meat intake.
The researchers’ theory, based on their laboratory studies, is that TMAO enables cholesterol to get into artery walls and also prevents the body from excreting excess cholesterol.
Koeth graduated from Mentor High in 2000. He is a doctorate student in the cell biology program at Case Western Reserve University.
On their Facebook page, Mentor Schools offered Koeth kudos for his work.
"Well done, Bob Koeth! The Mentor Schools community is very proud!" they wrote.