Why does red meat harm your heart?

A new study shows it's something more complicated than just fat content.

The study
, published in the journal Nature Medicine, shows that a chemical in red meat called carnitine is to blame for heart disease and high cholesterol.

Other recent studies have highlighted the risks of processed meat as well. One study showed a link between eating processed meat and earlier death from cardiovascular disease and cancer. Another found that eating too much processed meat could increase your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

The difference with this study is that the authors believe carnitine - not fat - is to blame.

"The cholesterol and saturated fat content of lean red meat is not that high, there's something else contributing to increases in cardiovascular risk," lead researcher Dr. Stanley Hazen told the BBC.

When you consume red meat, the carnitine converts into a chemical called trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO) in the gut. This unpronounceable chemical is responsible for an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and heart attacks.

The current recommendation from the Heart and Stroke Foundation is to choose lean cuts of meat and keep serving sizes under 75 grams. The Canadian Cancer Society recommends limiting your red meat consumption to 3 servings per week to help reduce the risk of developing and dying from cancer.

How often do you eat red meat? Do the number of studies about the health risks of red meat worry you?

-Katharine Watts, Associate Web Editor

Related:
Eating too much processed meat linked to early death
Our best healthy meatless recipes
Why are so many people eating vegan?