Secret Killer: TMAO
Some of the top selling supplements in vitamin stores world wide offering such solutions as improved cognitive function, better digestion and increased muscle mass are choline, the enzyme betaine and the amino acid, l-carnitine.
While I do recommend natural supplements, even those mentioned, for clients 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: Choline, betaine and l-carnitine are all found in high concentrations in animal meat, dairy and eggs.
But, my answer doesn’t stop there…
Choline, betaine and l-carnitine from the above mentioned food sources, 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. “In humans, a positive correlation between elevated plasma levels of TMAO and an increased risk for major adverse cardiovascular events and death is reported.” – National Center for Biotechnology Information
Further research within NCBI.gov explains that TMAO also alters cholesterol and bile metabolism leading to an inflammatory response, as well as, decreased kidney function.
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’. Uuhhh, well, 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, and atherosclerosis and risk of ischemic heart disease.”
So, really, it’s your choice. Concerned about TMAO in relation to disease prevention and optimal health? Choose a whole foods, plant based diet and you have one less thing to worry about and actually, there are many other wonderful reasons:
Looking for more information on this subject or need help transitioning to a plant based lifestyle? Book your session with me here.
Until then, be well!