Following closely on the heels of a media fest over a study positing a causative role for red meat in the development of heart disease, a seemingly diametrically opposite result has come of a different study, this one from the Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Cardiovascular disease is a serious health problem in the United States and the rest of the developed and developing world. Although modern medicine has developed stunning forms of intervention to save live after a heart attack, recovery, management and secondary prevention are as challenging as primary prevention.
During a heart attack, carnitine levels are depleted and researchers wondered about the predictive value of following those levels. What they found is that carnitine (a substance found in red meat, cold water salmon, vegetables and fruits, metabolized in the body to produce TMAO and earlier in the week the reason given for red meat's potential harmfulness) levels were in fact predictive. Those with higher (higher!) carnitine levels had less mortality, specifically less of the typical complications such as irregular heart beats and subsequent muscle weakness. In other words, carnitine proved protective for the heart that had endured a heart attack.
Clearly the many articles on the TMAO study that appeared earlier this week align with an anti-meat point of view (although the study itself was not so damning). In fact, the maligning of meat is not well substantiated by consideration of all the scientific literature. Basing a nutritional strategy on clinical reports is difficult if not impossible, based solely on the transient and conflicting nature of research findings, particularly as reported in the mainstream media. It is for that reason that the Weston Price Foundation and the Paleo movement have based their proposals on correlations between dietary practices and societal health, observed historically and comprehensively rather than by isolation of individual nutrients. Watch for an article soon about Paleo.