New Study Reveals Link Between Allergens In Red Meat And Heart Disease

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Cardiovascular diseases are responsible for one-third of all deaths worldwide, so understanding how they develop is crucial. A team of researchers has now found a link between the presence of allergens in red meat and a higher risk of developing some heart conditions. The observations were published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology.

“This novel finding from a small group of subjects from Virginia raises the intriguing possibility that allergy to red meat may be an underrecognized factor in heart disease,” study leader Professor Coleen McNamara, from the University of Virginia Health System, said in a statement. “These preliminary findings underscore the need for further clinical studies in larger populations from diverse geographic regions and additional laboratory work.”

The team collected blood samples from 118 adults and looked for antibodies to galactose-α-1,3-galactose, or alpha-Gal, the main allergen in red meat. Of the patients, 26 percent had a sensitivity, with imaging analysis revealing they had 30 percent more plaque build-up in their coronary arteries than those without sensitivity.

Coronary artery disease can lead to heart attacks. Although this area of research is still in its infancy, such a link may need to be taken into account when giving health advice. Sensitivity to alpha-Gal can be innate, developed, or even start after individuals are bit by a particular tick. One such example is the The Lone Star tick, which can sensitize people to that particular molecule. The tick is more prevalent in the Southeastern United States, but can be found all the way to Long Island.

There is currently no treatment for red meat allergy, but people who suffer from it should avoid red meat completely. There's also little information about it, which leads to fewer diagnoses. Researchers are unsure how many people are allergic to red meat in the US, but estimates suggest it is around 1 percent. However, antibodies sensitive to alpha-Gal may be a lot more common and in certain areas might be present in one-fifth of the population.  

Cardiovascular diseases are the number one cause of death globally, taking the lives of 17.7 million people in 2016. Everyone should consider a heart-friendly diet, low in red meat and cholesterol, and a healthy lifestyle to stave off heart problems.

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