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More research connects red meat to heart disease

Red meat has long been linked to heart diseaseMore experts are warning about the dangerous link between red meat and coronary heart disease.

A recent study out of Indiana University is spotlighting heme iron, a specific type of iron only present in red meat. According to researchers, heme iron consumption may increase the risk of heart disease by 57 percent.

For the study, investigators analyzed the data from 21 previously published studies. The records of over 200,000 patients over a 10-year period were included in the analysis. According to researchers, the body seems better able to control the absorption of iron derived from vegetables and iron supplements (known as nonheme iron). However, heme iron is absorbed at a greater rate and may contribute to inflammation and tissue damage. These factors are what increase the risk for coronary heart disease.

Nonheme iron, found in plant and vegetable sources, was not associated with any increase in risk.

“The observed positive association between heme iron and risk of CHD may be explained by the high bioavailability of heme iron and its role as the primary source of iron in iron-replete participants,” researchers said in a statement.

The study shines a light on the longstanding relationship between meat consumption and heart disease. It is particularly noteworthy as it focuses on total iron consumption and differentiates between these two different types of intake.

Previous research has pinpointed a compound in red meat called carnitine as a potential heart disease culprit. Once ingested, bacteria in the digestive tract convert carnitine into something called TMAO, which has been linked to astherosclerosis (hardening or clogging of the arteries).

By Marianne Hayes