A new study shows that eating red meat, which includes beef and lamb, could lead to chemical reactions that can harden and narrow a person's arteries.
Researchers are now hoping that their findings would aid in the development of treatments that would block the process and prevent such health complications.
"The findings identify the pathways and participants involved more clearly, and help identify targets for therapies for interventions to block or prevent heart disease development" said Stanley Hazen from the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio and the lead scientist in the study.
Hazen added that the research could lead to interventions that would allow people to eat red meat without fear of developing a heart problem.
This research is the latest study to show the health risks of consuming red meat. Last year, research found that a single rasher of bacon daily is enough to lead to health risks.
Regular consumption of food like bacon, sausages, pies and ready meals increases the possibility of contracting heart ailments and cancer, raising the risk of death by 44 percent.
The new research reveals that red meat has bad effects on a person's heart due to the way that a nutrient from the food is broken down by gut bacteria.
The digestion of L-carnitine, a meat compound, leads to the generation of metabolites, which are molecules produced from the process of metabolism. These metabolites lead to the hardening and narrowing of a person's arteries.
Previous research has already identified one of the dangerous metabolites, namely trimethylamine-N-oxide or TMAO.
Hazen and his team succeeded in identifying a second one, named gamma-butyrobetaine, which is generated at a rate that is 1,000 times faster than TMAO.
Both metabolites play a role in the development of atherosclerosis, a possibly fatal condition in which a person's arteries become clogged with fatty substances, including cholesterol. The condition is one of the usual causes of strokes, heart attacks and heart diseases.
Research also reveals that two kinds of gut bacteria lead to the formation of the two identified dangerous metabolites. The study suggests potential directions in drug development for atherosclerosis, including the suppression of the enzymes of the gut bacteria.
Hazen also said that people should be careful in taking body-building and fat-burning supplements, as these products sometimes contain gamma-butyrobetaine.
The report, which based its findings on mice experiments, was published in the Cell Metabolism journal.
British Heart Foundation senior dietician Victoria Taylor said that it would be difficult to prove that the same findings apply to humans. However, Taylor said that diets that have led people to good heart health, such as the traditional Mediterranean diet, include lower intake of red meat.