Energy Drink Ingredient May Up Heart Disease Risk

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An ingredient in energy drinks and red meat may increase the risk of heart disease, according to a new Cleveland Clinic study published online this week in the journal Nature Medicine.

The ingredient, called carnitine, is a popular additive in some energy drinks because it's believed to convert fat into energy. Now scientists are warning it could be clogging the arteries of those who consume it.

The research team was co-led by Dr. Stanley Hazen, vice chairman of Translational Research for the Lerner Research Institute, and Robert Koeth, a medical student at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University.

"Carnitine is cause for concern I think because our data really suggests that this is a risk factor for accelerated heart disease," Hazen said.

But Hazen cautions that more research is needed to examine the safety of "chronic carnitine supplementation."

"Carnitine is not an essential nutrient; our body naturally produces all we need," he said. "We need to examine the safety of chronically consuming carnitine supplements as we've shown that, under some conditions, it can foster the growth of bacteria that produce TMAO and potentially clog arteries."

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