A compound found in red meat may be associated with an increased risk of acute heart failure, a new study suggests.
Patients with acute heart failure often have high levels of the metabolite trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) – of which red meat is a major dietary source, researchers said.
Red meat, which has been reported to be associated with cardiovascular disease, is a source of L-carnitine which is broken down by gut bacteria to form TMAO.
In previous studies TMAO has been association with mortality risk in chronic heart failure but this association in acute heart failure is still unknown.
The team, led by Professor Toru Suzuki from the University of Leicester, measured circulating TMAO levels in approximately 1,000 patients admitted to University Hospitals of Leicester National Health Service (NHS) Trust with acute heart failure.
The study, published in the journal Heart, was the first to investigate association of TMAO levels in acute heart failure patients, a condition associated with high mortality and morbidity – and suggests involvement of the gut microbiota and diet in outcomes of acute heart failure.
The study shows an association between circulating levels of a metabolite of this process with prognosis of acute heart failure.  “Patients with acute heart failure showed higher levels of the oxidised metabolite TMAO in those that died or had a repeat admission to hospital with heart failure within the first year,” said Suzuki.
“Our study shows that higher levels of TMAO, a metabolite of carnitine derived from red meat, is associated with poorer outcomes associated with acute heart failure, one of the main diseases of the heart.

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