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According to a new study published in the journal Nature Medicine, there is a new link between red meat and heart disease. But didn’t we already know that? Yes, and no. Previous studies linking red meat to heart disease focused only on fat and cholesterol found in meat. This study gives you even more reasons to be worried!

The study found that a compound called carnitine found in red meat impacts certain bacteria in the intestine, which results in the production of a chemical called Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO,) linked to clogging of the arteries and heart disease.

As part of the study, vegetarians and vegans were also given a generous serving of red meat and they didn’t produce the same harmful chemicals in the bloodstream as did the meat eaters, most likely because their digestive bacteria are different.

“A diet high in carnitine actually shifts our gut microbe composition to those that like carnitine, making meat eaters even more susceptible to forming TMAO and its artery-clogging effects,” said lead author Stanley Hazen, M.D., an atherosclerosis expert. “Meanwhile, vegans and vegetarians have a significantly reduced capacity to synthesize TMAO from carnitine, which may explain the cardiovascular health benefits of these diets.”

Carnitine is also found in other animal products such as milk, fish and chicken, but red meat contains the most.

Hey, we told you plant-based meats are better than the real thing. Want to ease your way out of eating meat? Try these 10 awesomely meaty recipes without meat!

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