It may not be the fat in red meat that’s a danger, but a chemical found in the meat. Researchers say the compound carnitine is broken down by bacteria in the gut. That kicks off a chain reaction that raises cholesterol which can clog your arteries, leading to heart disease or stroke.
Carnitine typically helps the body transport fatty acids into cells to be used as energy. But researchers at the Cleveland Clinic found that in both humans and mice, certain bacteria in the digestive tract convert carnitine to another metabolite, called TMAO, that promotes atherosclerosis, or a thickening of the arteries.