December 15

Secret Killer: TMAO

Total Wellness


TMAO Activation

Some of the top selling supplements in vitamin stores world wide offer solutions such as improved cognitive function, better digestion and increased muscle mass.  I would like to discuss these specific supplements: choline, the enzyme betaine and the amino acid, l-carnitine.

While I do recommend natural supplements and consider myself a supporter of local vitamin stores, it is often asked or wondered, “Couldn’t I get those nutrients in certain foods rather than taking pills?”

This is a great question!  The answer is that choline, betaine and l-carnitine are all found in high concentrations in animal meat, dairy and eggs.  They are also found in low concentrations in plant foods.  I’ll discuss that further soon.

Choline, betaine and l-carnitine from meat, dairy and eggs, when metabolized by gut bacteria and liver enzymes, turns into a substance called, TMAO.

TMAO or Trimethylamine N-oxide is a colorless amine oxide which accumulates in the tissue of animals.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information reported that there is major cardiovascular health risk and even death associated with elevated plasma levels of TMAO.

Further research explains that TMAO also alters cholesterol and bile metabolism leading to an inflammatory response, as well as, decreased kidney function.

Possible Solutions

One of the first and most easy solutions would be to take antibiotics.  Antibiotics, as you now know, decreases our healthy bacteria or our microbiota.  Since our gut bacteria turns choline, betaine and l-carnitine into TMAO.  There you go, a simple solution.  Wrong.

Looking back at many of my previous blogs such as, Dirt and You, I discuss the importance of good bacteria as it relates to optimal health.  I truly believe that antibiotics are very harmful to both humans and animals unless utilized in life or death situations.

Another solution that was found by scientists working in the pharmaceutical industry was to create a drug that reduces the liver enzyme that turns Trimethylamine or TMA into TMAO.  The problem with that is, TMA causes bad body odor, specifically, a ‘bad fish smell’.  For that reason, I’m pretty sure this drug wouldn’t market well.

Plant Based Nutrients

Another great question regarding this subject is whether or not plant-based foods such as broccoli and brussel sprouts, which also contain choline, cause TMAO production.  Research from the Biochemical Pharmacology (Vol.58, 1999) proves that it does NOT.

In fact, a study done by Robert A. Koeth and published in The Nature Medicine states that, “omnivorous human subjects produced more TMAO than did vegans or vegetarians following ingestion of l-carnitine, and suggested a possible direct link between l-carnitine, gut bacteria, TMAO, atherosclerosis and risk of ischemic heart disease.”

Optimal Solution

So, really, it’s your choice.  Are you concerned about TMAO in relation to disease prevention and optimal health?  I suggest transitioning to a primarily whole foods, plant based diet.

You will have one less thing to worry about.

There are many other wonderful reasons to switch to a whole foods, plant based lifestyle.  It’s easier and more beneficial than you might realize.

Looking for more information on this subject or need help transitioning to a plant based lifestyle?  Book your session with me here.

Be well always!

Cynthia Moon


About the author 


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    • Thank you Zane. I appreciate your comment. There is so much to know about optimal nutrition and I’m happy to share this here on my blog.


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