Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Choline Can Increase Heart Risk


Choline – a natural semi-essential vitamin – when taken in excess, promoted atherosclerotic heart disease. Over the past few years we have seen a huge increase in the addition of choline into multi-vitamins - even in those marketed to our children - yet it is this same substance that our study shows the gut flora can convert into something that has a direct, negative impact on heart disease risk by forming an atherosclerosis-causing by-product."

In studies of more than 2,000 subjects altogether, blood levels of three metabolites of the dietary lipid lecithin were shown to strongly predict risk for cardiovascular disease: choline (a B-complex vitamin), trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO, a product that requires gut flora to be produced and is derived from the choline group of the lipid) and betaine (a metabolite of choline).

"The studies identify TMAO as a blood test that can be used in subjects to see who is especially at risk for cardiac disease, and in need of more strict dietary intervention to lower their cardiac risk," said Stanley Hazen, M.D., Ph.D., Staff in Lerner Research Institute's Department of Cell Biology and the Heart and Vascular Institute's Department of Cardiovascular Medicine and Section Head of Preventive Cardiology & Rehabilitation at Cleveland Clinic, and senior author of the study.

Healthy amounts of choline, betaine and TMAO are found in many fruits, vegetables and fish. These three metabolites are commonly marketed as direct-to-consumer supplements, supposedly offering increased brain health, weight loss and/or muscle growth.

These compounds also are commonly used as feed additives for cattle, poultry or fish because they may make muscle grow faster; whether muscle from such livestock have higher levels of these compounds remains unknown.

"Knowing that gut flora generates a pro-atherosclerotic metabolite from a common dietary lipid opens up new opportunities for improved diagnostics, prevention and treatment of heart disease," Dr. Hazen said. "These studies suggest we can intelligently design a heart healthy yogurt or other form of probiotic for preventing heart disease in the future. It also appears there is a need for considering the risk vs. benefits of some commonly used supplements."

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