Dr. Oz Backs Off on His Recommendation of L-carnitine Supplementby Henry Hound on June 25, 2013
OZ is Right √ - Oz is Wrong - Inconclusive
Every now and again the Good Doctor Oz admits that he is, or was wrong, and when he does he gets a big OZ is Right from the Hound! Such was the case when on a recent broadcast, Dr. Oz backed off of his previous endorsement of using L-carnitine Supplements.
There was good reason for Oz’s reversal. Doctors like Oz, and healthy living advocates like yours truly, have been recommending for years to reduce or eliminate red meat from your diet. While there are many good reasons to do so, the conventional medical establishment most often pointed to the well documented link between high red meat consumption and heart disease. Conventional wisdom has also always thought that the primary reason for this link was the high saturated fat content and large amount of “bad” cholesterol in red meat. Turns out that may not be the case. According to a recently published Harvard Medical University study, a substance in red meat known as L-carnitine, is likely the most contributing culprit to increased heart disease risk and eating red meat.
If L-carnitine sounds familiar, it is because it has been recommended in the past in supplement form by Oz, and others, for weight loss and increased energy. L-carnitine is also found in many energy drinks, and Oz now recommends to avoid any such beverages that contain L-carnitine.
Here is why. According to the Harvard researchers, apparently, once you ingest L-carnitine, whether that is in meat, a beverage, or pill, it travels to your digestive system where intestinal bacteria converts the L-carnitine into a compound known as trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO). TMAO is well known to be one of the building blocks of arterial plaque.
Interestingly enough, the study found that vegans and vegetarians, even after consuming a large amount of carnitine, did not produce significant levels of TMAO. The researchers suggested this may be because vegans and vegetarians may have different gut bacteria then those who regularly consume red meat. However, it is recommended that all people avoid supplements or drinks known to contain L-carnitine.
The study is not 100% conclusive that L-carnitine is the direct cause of the greater risk of heart disease among meat eaters. But it was enough for Oz and others to reverse their thinking on L-carnitine supplementation. Perhaps more interesting is the positive proof the research provided of the link between what we eat, and the levels and types of bacteria in the gut, and how that influences health overall. Said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, associate professor of medicine at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital, “It’s the best demonstration so far of two-way communication between ourselves and the bacteria in out gut: what we eat affects the bacteria, and what they do with what we eat can influence health.”
Dr. Oz concluded his segment on the study and L-carnitine by saying, “Because the greatest source of L-carnitine in our diet comes from red meat, I think we should avoid it as much as possible. I don’t eat much red meat myself. Personally, I think lean chicken tastes better anyway, however, I know that’s not an option for everyone. If you must eat red meat, try to eat 4 ounces or less per week.” Oz wrapped it up by saying for those who just can’t give up the red meat, try supplementing with a probiotic, which can help to produce gut bacteria more like in the digestive system of non-meat eaters that could reduce the production of TMAO.