Does a Red Meat Allergy Increase the Risk of Heart Disease?

    Friday, 27 July 2018 07:00  Blog

We have long known that red meat can contribute to poor health in several ways. It has been implicated in cardiovascular disease before, as well as in cancer, diabetes, and stroke. When it comes to heart disease, however, the link to red meat has been focused on the high levels of saturated fat that red meat carries and how saturated fat can worsen cardiovascular health.

Recently, however, allergies to red meat have cropped up – largely in response to tick bites from the Lone Star tick, which is most commonly found in the Southeastern United States. With the rise in meat allergies, scientists have begun delving deeper into what makes our bodies react to red meat. The culprit allergen has turned out to be a complex sugar referred to as alpha-gal.

There has been some evidence to suggest that people with allergies may be more likely to have buildup of fatty plaque in their arteries, and it is thought that this may be due to the immune response to allergens, which sets off a cascade of events that could lead to this atherosclerosis. In a new study, University of Virginia scientists investigated whether those with red meat allergies are more likely to have atherosclerosis.

The researchers evaluated the blood of 118 people from Virginia and looked for an antibody to alpha-gal, which would indicate allergy to red meat. They identified the antibody in 26 percent of their subjects, and those with this marker did indeed have higher levels of fatty plaques in their arteries than those without the antibody. The plaques found in these allergic patients were also more unstable than any fond in those without red meat allergy, and that instability is associated with a higher likelihood of heart attack and stroke.

This new study, published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, provides some interesting insights into the potential link between allergies and cardiovascular disease. However, it does not clarify whether red meat allergies – or any allergies – actually increase the risk of heart disease. Future research will help elucidate this potential connection and improve our understanding of the relationship between allergies and heart health.


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