Dr. Stanley Hazen of the Cleveland Clinic, who led the study, and his colleagues had accumulated evidence for a surprising new explanation of why red meat may contribute to heart disease. And they were testing it with this early morning experiment.
The researchers had come to believe that what damaged hearts was not just the thick edge of fat on steaks, or the delectable marbling of their tender interiors. In fact, these scientists suspected that saturated fat and cholesterol made only a minor contribution to the increased amount of heart disease seen in red-meat eaters. The real culprit, they proposed, was a little-studied chemical that is burped out by bacteria in the stomach after people eat red meat. It is quickly converted by the liver into yet another little-studied chemical called TMAO that gets into the blood and increases the risk of heart disease.