At the tail-end of last year, just in time for Christmas, researchers at the Cleveland Clinic published an intriguing study centered on heart disease. It gave new meaning to the old saying that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach — and suggested that it may be more literally true than we ever imagined.
In recent years we’ve learned that our “microbiomes” — the incredible colonies of microorganisms that live in our guts — have a profound effect on us. They influence everything from our weight to our moods to our blood sugar levels. They also seem to play a role in heart disease, and this study explained one way in which they might affect heart health.
It also suggested what might be a “novel drug treatment” in the near future. If it comes to fruition, it will very likely be one of the next “blockbuster” drugs that rakes in billions of dollars and is prescribed to half the population.
It sounds very promising. It is promising. But there’s more to the story than meets the eye.
Will the next generation of heart disease drugs target your gut?
The study is pretty straightforward. For all the hoopla surrounding it, it’s important to note that it was done in mice, not humans. And although it’s likely that human testing will produce the same results, it’s not a given. That said, here’s how it went:
Researchers had noted that gut bacteria seem to affect the likelihood of heart disease and they set out to discover why. They found that certain strains of gut bacteria produce a chemical called TMAO when they break down the nutrient choline.
TMAO appears to cause atherosclerosis — the buildup of fatty plaque in the arteries. (Conventional medical wisdom says that these plaques are the main cause of heart attacks. The plaques break loose, inflammation occurs, your body forms a clot in response and BOOM, you’re having a heart attack.) The higher the levels of TMAO, the more plaque builds up.
The scientists involved in the project looked at various ways to stop the production of TMAO. They found they could do this by blocking an enzyme…but it made the body smell like rotting fish. Since no one would buy a drug that made you smell like rotten fish no matter how effective it was, they tried again. This time they targeted the gut bacteria themselves, and found a chemical compound that stops the bugs from making as much TMAO.
This approach worked. The mice treated with the chemical — it was added to their water supply — had much lower rates of atherosclerosis. The bacteria weren’t harmed. The microbiome was left intact, which is important since it has an effect on so many other bodily systems. It’s a pretty good bet that we’ll see a preventive drug come out this, and that it will be prescribed to millions of people some day.
It’s also likely that the results of this study will be twisted to suit the larger, not-so-beneficent agenda that’s gotten us to the unhealthy place we’re at today.
The finger-pointing is about to begin. Don’t believe the propaganda
The results of this study hinge on choline. It’s one of the B-complex vitamins. It’s found in a huge variety of foods, but animal products — and soy — have the highest concentration.
Here’s where the problem begins.
This little study is leading right back to the bad old days of “Meat is bad! Don’t eat meat!” Stories reporting this study were quick to talk about red meat causing heart disease — an idea that has been shown to be false time and again in other studies, and which has nothing to do with the study in question. Even the WHO study that got so much press last year didn’t find a link between red meat and heart disease, no matter what the headlines said — if you took the time to read the actual study rather than the news stories, the (small) link was between processed meat and heart disease.
And “Meat is bad” is quickly turning into “Fat is bad! Don’t eat fat!” — even though the study had nothing to do with fat either. One of the news reports I read actually claimed that TMOA was produced by the bacteria breaking down fat — which is not even remotely what the study said. It was all about choline, high levels of which are also found in fish, soy products, pasta, and wheat germ. The “fat is bad” angle was a blatant lie designed to support the medical status quo.
What really puzzles and concerns me is that no one is stepping up to correct these bald misrepresentations. This says to me that there really is an agenda to keep us fat and sick and carb-addicted, even while treating us for the consequences.
There’s more to this story than you’re being told
Here’s something else that gave me the chills. Time and again, I read about how researchers had “discovered a chemical” called DMB that stopped the production of TMOA. While no one said it outright, the insinuation was that DMB is something unusual. Some hard-to-find compound. Maybe even something created in a lab. In other words, something we need to get in a pill from our doctors.
But it’s not.
It’s actually a naturally-occurring substance that’s found in several of the foods we ought to be eating as part of a nutritious diet anyway. These include olive oil, grape seed oil, balsamic vinegar, red wine, and yeast-containing foods.
Those are some pretty staple components of the Mediterranean diet, which study after study shows lowers the risk of heart disease. So you see it’s actually pretty easy to add DMB to your diet. Use olive oil in your cooking. Have a glass of red wine with dinner. Marinate your meat in a marinade containing balsamic vinegar.
But that’s not the shadiest thing about this story. While it was reported in the news just a couple months ago as something brand-new, the Cleveland Clinic actually filed a patent back in 2012. The application says their invention/process
“provides treatment and/or prevention of cardiovascular disease with 3,3-dimethyl-1-butanol (DMB) and related compounds, and pharmaceutical formulations thereof.” Make of that what you will.
What’s the takeaway? Excessive choline may contribute to hardening of the arteries. DMB appears to negate the risk. So if you’re going to eat high-choline foods like meat, eggs, and soy, pair them with a DMB-containing food like olive oil or red wine.