A preliminary result of a study finds a link between an allergen found in red meat and the buildup of fats that block the heart arteries.
Experts have long established that blockage in the arteries increases the risk for heart attacks. Also, saturated fats found in red meat have long been identified as one major cause of heart disease.
Why The Study Is Significant
The current study is significant because it particularly looked into the role played by a specific allergen in the red meat and how it possibly causes fats to accumulate in the heart arteries.
The study, performed by experts at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, is also timely because ticks are found to be widespread in the United States at present. The study noted that tick bites could trigger the allergic reaction to red meat and spread the sensitivity to the allergen among people.
Ultimately, the study proposed that allergic reaction to red meat, particularly the asymptomatic conditions, could be a neglected cause of heart disease and therefore, warrant a more thorough investigation.
Red Meat Allergen, Tick Bites, And Asymptomatic Conditions
The study published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology on June 14 identified the allergen as the galactose-α-1,3-galactose or alpha-Gal, a type of complex sugar.
Previous studies found that tick bites, particularly those of Lone Star ticks, can trigger the allergic reaction to alpha-Gal. These ticks could also spread the sensitivity to the allergen from people to people.
Hence, red meat allergies are more common in areas were Lone Star ticks are also widespread. These areas are the Southeastern United States, the Long Island, and New York.
As in all forms of diseases, there are also people who don't exhibit symptoms of allergic reaction to alpha-Gal. The present study noted that more individuals who are allergic to red meat tend to be asymptomatic.
It could be possible that more people who consume red meat are unaware that they are allergic to it, hence, also unaware that they are already increasing their risk of heart disease.
Alpha-Gal And Heart Disease
The authors of the study highlighted that the result they presented is still at a preliminary level. Nevertheless, they encourage experts to consider developing a blood test that could precisely determine whether a person is sensitive to alpha-Gal or not. They are also looking forward to a more in-depth research about alpha-Gal and its link to heart disease.
"These preliminary findings underscore the need for further clinical studies in larger populations from diverse geographic regions and additional laboratory work," said Coleen McNamara, the team's leader from Cardiovascular Research Center of the University of Virginia Health Systems.
For the meantime, the team recommends people to observe healthy lifestyle by committing to a healthy diet comprised of more vegetables, whole grains, and fruits. People are also advised to maintain a healthy weight, manage effects of stress, exercise regularly, and stop smoking entirely.