You may have heard that eating meat can increase your risk of heart disease. But what if the real culprit wasn’t meat after all?
Well, a new study suggests meat isn’t the heart gremlin some people thought it was.
Turns out the bite of the lone star tick can cause people to develop an allergic reaction to red meat. And when you develop a sensitivity to this allergen, it can increase the plaque buildup in your arteries.
Researchers from the University of Virginia School of Medicine found the connection between the tick bite and the increased sensitivity to the allergen in red meat -- a sensitivity spread by tick bites -- with a buildup of fatty plaque in the arteries of the heart. This buildup may increase the risk of heart attacks and stroke.
To conduct the study, the researchers looked at 118 patients, many of whom had the sensitivity to the allergen. They found that those with the sensitivity had 30% more plaque accumulation inside their arteries than those without the sensitivity. What’s more, the plaques they developed in the arteries were the type of unstable plaques that are more likely to cause heart attacks.
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The allergen in meat is called alpha-gal. It’s a type of sugar found in red meat. When you have the sensitivity, it can cause hives, stomach upset, difficulty breathing or other symptoms three to eight hours after consuming meat from mammals. Poultry and fish do not trigger a reaction. But not everyone who has the sensitivity to alpha-gal will develop symptoms. In fact, the researchers believe there are more people in this latter group.
So how can you know if you have this sensitivity to alpha-gal? If you’ve ever had a tick bite, chances are good you have it. It’s possible to get a tick bite and not know it, but most of the time you have to remove the tick. So you know if you’ve suffered a bite. These ticks used to be found just in the Southeast. But their range has increased, moving west and north - even into Canada. That puts just about everyone in the U.S. at risk, particularly if you spend time around plants.
If you have had a tick bite, then you have two options. You can avoid eating red meat or greatly reduce your intake. Or you can take steps to protect your arteries from developing the plaque. The easiest way to do that is by taking nattokinase. This fermented soy product is fantastic at removing plaque and keeping it from developing in the first place. You can take a product like Circutol, which has nattokinase in it - along with other nutrients that protect your heart. It can stop the buildup of plaque and protect your heart at the same time.
Your insider for better health,
Steve Kroening, ND.