The assessment of the actual contribution of red or processed meat to increasing the risk of suffering cardiovascular diseases (CVD) requires identification of specific harmful components and their underlying pathological mechanisms. In regards to CVD, meat lipids and their oxidation products have been recurrently studied due to their implications on lipid metabolism, hypercholesterolemia, obesity, and risk of suffering vascular events such as stroke. The impact of excess NaCl intake on increasing blood pressure is well-established and processed meat products have been recognized as a major contributor to dietary sodium in developed countries. Recent evidence has also suggested carnitine from red meat, as a precursor for trimethylamine-N-oxide, which has been shown to cause atherosclerosis, may increase the risk of suffering CVD in experimental animals. The present review aims to provide an updated overview, including evidence, controversies and unresolved questions on both the epidemiology and mechanisms relating red and processed meat consumption to CVD.
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