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Red meat + wrong bacteria = bad news for hearts

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Microbes turn nutrient in beef into an artery-clogging menace. Lean steak is low in fat and cholesterol and high in protein — qualities normally considered healthy. But eating a lot of it can still cause heart disease. Researchers have now laid the blame on bacteria in the human gut that convert a common nutrient found in beef into a compound that may speed up the build-up of plaques in the arteries.

The results are published in Nature Medicine today1. Co-author Stanley Hazen, head of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, says that the study could signal a new approach to diet and health. In some cases, an individual’s collection of intestinal microbes may be as important to their diet as anything on a nutrition label, he says. “Bacteria make a whole slew of molecules from food,” he says, “and those molecules can have a huge effect on our metabolic processes.”

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