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Did you ever think that what goes on in your gut could affect your heart? It may seem far-fetched, but it’s not. Think about it: the intestinal lining is connected to the bloodstream, which acts as a direct communication line with the heart and the rest of the body.

Recent studies have found an interesting gut-heart connection. When gut bacteria break down phosphatidyl choline from lecithin, a common dietary ingredient found in foods like eggs, dairy, meat, fish and soy, a metabolite called trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) is formed. TMAO promotes atherosclerosis, and higher amounts of this metabolite in the blood increase the risk of heart disease.

This is an interesting study, but there are many questions that still need to be answered. Which bacteria are more likely to produce this TMAO? How does modifying gut bacteria change the heart disease risk? More studies are needed to determine this, but researchers suggest that probiotics may be used in the future for preventing heart disease.

It’s exciting science, though still in the early stages. But the overall message is clear: what happens in your gut affects the rest of your body. No question!

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Results from a recent study that lasted more than 25 years and involved more than 80,000 women ages 30 to 55 revealed that those who eat a lot of red meat—along with processed meats and high-fat dairy products—have a higher risk of developing heart disease.

Specifically, said researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, women who consume a diet high in red meat experience more heart attacks and have a higher death rate from heart disease when compared with those who tend to consume leaner protein sources such as fish, poultry, nuts and low-fat dairy products.

The data confirm previous findings about the relationship between diet and heart disease, and scientists hope that more studies like this one will increase awareness about the importance of developing healthy eating habits. Among the recommendations were simple changes such as swapping ham and cheese for a peanut butter and banana sandwich, and opting for veggie burgers instead of beef.

In addition to promoting heart health, a diet that includes plenty of lean protein sources as well as fiber-rich fruits, nuts, vegetables and whole grains has been shown to support optimal weight management and healthy blood sugar, both of which may help combat the high rates of obesity and obesity-related disease so prominent in the United States.

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