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Energy Drinks & Heart Disease

April 15, 2013

Energy drinks and red meat contain carnitine, a substance that promotes heart disease with the help of gut bacteria.



Artery-clogging energy drinks? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Diets high in red meat can contribute to clogged arteries. Now, scientists think gut microbes may be involved. Biochemist Stanley Hazen of the Cleveland Clinic says a substance called carnitine is common in red meat. Gut bacteria use carnitine for energy, producing a waste product called TMAO. TMAO, in turn, promotes clogged arteries. Hazen and his colleagues found that both mice and humans with carnitine-rich diets developed more heart disease.

STANLEY HAZEN (The Cleveland Clinic):

Chronic exposure to dietary carnitine can shift your intestinal microbe composition and make you more likely to generate TMAO, this metabolite in the blood that very strongly tracks with risk for heart attack, stroke and death.


But red meat isn’t the only culprit. It turns out that carnitine is also a common ingredient in many popular energy drinks.


And a typical energy drink will have as much carnitine in it as a whole steak.


I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society. 

Energy drinks promise to make you a better athlete, but could some be bad for your heart? (Jupiter Images)