It happens all the time. People suffer heart attacks and they have absolutely no signs before it happens. Their cholesterol levels are normal. Their C-reactive protein levels are normal. And their triglycerides are normal. What's more, they don't even have a family history of heart trouble. Their doctors have no explanation for their sudden death. But now researchers may have found out why healthy people can have a fatal heart attack.
In past issues of Nutrient Insider, you've read about all the problems bad bacteria in your gut can cause. Research has linked them to breast cancer, thyroid problems, arthritis, and type-2 diabetes. Now researchers have found that your gut bacteria can lead to a heart attack.
The researchers discovered that some stomach bugs turn the nutrient lecithin into a compound that can clog your arteries. This compound is trimethylamine oxide (TMAO). The researchers also found that they can accurately predict a heart attack simply by measuring your blood levels of TMAO. In fact, their ability to predict heart attacks using TMAO was substantially better than the predictive ability of cholesterol and triglyceride tests.
This study should put to rest the theory that cholesterol causes heart attacks. Cholesterol is a nutrient that your body needs. In fact, it may increase in response to TMAO. TMAO makes blood cholesterol build up on artery walls, causing atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). When the buildup blocks an artery, it can cause a stroke or heart attack. Without TMAO, the cholesterol doesn't build up.
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Because of this study, you can bet that doctors will begin testing for TMAO, and rightly so. Fortunately, the researchers didn't turn to antibiotics as a treatment for TMAO, though plenty of physicians will do so. The bugs that produce TMAO can become resistant to antibiotics. Instead, these researchers suggested altering your gut bacteria so they produce less TMAO.
I'm glad to see they didn't encourage people to take less lecithin. Lecithin, as you may know, is found in egg yolks, liver, beef, pork, and wheat germ. It's a powerful nutrient that benefits your heart and your brain. So you don't want to cut back on it. A similar study came out recently suggesting some gut bacteria can turn l-carnitine into TMAO. Again, it's not the carnitine that's the problem, but the bacteria that cause the conversion.
The best steps you can take to avoid the production of TMAO focus on discouraging bad bacteria and encouraging good bacteria. To do this, you have to eat a healthy diet, which means eating a lot of vegetables. And take probiotics, such as Advanced Probiotic Formula, every day. A few weeks ago, I showed you natural antibiotics that will help as well - and won't cause resistance. You might want to try these as well. I'll have more suggestions in future issues of Nutrient Insider as we learn more about TMAO and the bacteria that produce it.
Your insider for better health,
Steve Kroening is the editor of Nutrient Insider, a twice-a-week email newsletter that brings you the latest healing breakthroughs from the world of nutrition and dietary supplements. For over 20 years, Steve has worked hand-in-hand with some of the nation's top doctors, including Drs. Robert Rowen, Frank Shallenberger, Nan Fuchs, William Campbell Douglass, and best-selling author James Balch. Steve is the author of the book Practical Guide to Home Remedies. As a health journalist, Steve's articles have appeared in countless magazines, blogs, and websites.