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Cleveland Clinic News Wire | Heart & Vascular Health
Red meat

No. 9 Innovation: Finding Heart Risk Through the Gut (Video)

A new tool in the heart disease hunt: TMAO

Cleveland Clinic asked more than 100 of its top experts about the innovations set to reshape healthcare in the coming year. These are their answers — the Top 10 Innovations for 2014.

There is a global hunt in progress using cardiovascular fingerprints — scientists call them biomarkers — to identify the risk of heart disease.

The most common biomarker for heart disease is the blood test for cholesterol levels, but there have been more recent examples such as C reactive protein (CRP). In 2013, researchers added another biomarker called TMAO to the hunt — and it lives in your gut.

An accurate screening tool

The body produces TMAO (trimethylamine N-oxide) when your gut bacteria digest choline, which is found in egg yolks, red meat and dairy products. Choline is thought to promote atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.

Heart experts believe this discovery could lead to personalized nutrition recommendations to help patients reduce their cardiovascular risk.

TMAO provides an accurate screening tool for predicting future risks of heart attack, stroke and death. Most important, it does so in people who have not been identified by traditional risk factors and blood tests.

Tests of TMAO levels in more than 4,000 adults over three years revealed the predictive power of TMAO. As reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, people with the highest levels of TMAO had a significantly increased risk of death, nonfatal heart attack, or stroke compared to those with the lowest levels.

A laboratory test for TMAO research studies is now available. And in addition to testing for risk, heart experts believe this discovery could lead to personalized nutrition recommendations to help patients reduce their cardiovascular risk.

Tags: biomarkers, eggs, heart disease, red meat, TMAO, Top 10 Innovations for 2014
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