University of Leicester heart professor stars in BBC documentary

Posted by ap507 at Jul 26, 2016 03:58 PM |
Professor Toru Suzuki featured in documentary to be broadcast in October

Issued by the University of Leicester Press Office on 26 July

A leading Leicester professor is to appear in a BBC documentary after finding a link between red meat and heart disease.

Professor Toru Suzuki from the University of Leicester Department of Cardiovascular Sciences was asked to conduct an experiment looking at how steak affects the body.

The investigation will feature as part of a BBC science documentary season, which focuses on finding the truth behind everyday issues.

The production team spent 13 hours filming at the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Leicester Cardiovascular Biomedical Research Unit (BRU) located at the Glenfield Hospital.

Professor Suzuki, from the University of Leicester’s Department of Cardiovascular Sciences and the NIHR Leicester Cardiovascular BRU, said: “We recently identified that people who suffer from heart failure often have high levels of a metabolite called trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) – of which red meat is a major dietary source.

“We were able to show that people who have heart disease and high TMAO levels are at a higher risk of poor outcomes (including death) than those with the same condition but who have lower TMAO levels.

“It’s because of our findings that the BBC asked if I would participate in their show looking at how food can affect health outcomes.

“It was very exciting to be asked to take part and I very much look forward to watching the team when it is broadcast later on in the year.”

As part of the filming process, presenter Chris Bavin gave a blood sample which was used to measure his baseline TMAO levels.

He then ate a steak and swallowed a battery-operated camera, which is hidden inside a pill capsule.

The tiny device flashes a light as it passes through the intestines and viewers will be able to watch the steak as it made its way through his stomach and small intestines.

Six hours later the steak reached his large intestines where the gut bacteria began to break down the food and triggered the creation process of TMAO.

A follow-up blood test was then taken and viewers will be able to see exactly how the levels of red meat had affected his TMAO levels.

Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, who is the director of the NIHR Research Leicester Cardiovascular BRU, said: “It is always rewarding when people show an interest in our research, but when the BBC want to feature our findings on one of their shows that is definitely something to be proud of.

“We hope the experiment Chris and Professor Suzuki carried out will help people viewing the show at home understand what we have uncovered and what the possible health implications could mean further down the line.”

The TV documentary is due to be broadcast in October and is part of BBC One's special The Truth About...  series.

Professor Suzuki contributed to the episode which will be called The Truth About Meat.

The Trimethylamine N-oxide and Prognosis in Acute Heart Failure study was the first to investigate the association of TMAO levels in acute heart failure patients.

The research was supported by the John and Lucille van Geest Foundation and the NIHR Research Leicester Cardiovascular BRU.

NIHR BRUs are focused on translational clinical research, taking new ideas from the laboratory bench to the patient’s bedside to improve health. 6

The NIHR Leicester Cardiovascular BRU is one of 20 units around England funded by the NIHR, a strategic research funding body within the NHS. It is a partnership between the University of Leicester and University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust.

Notes to editors

  • Contact:
  • Website:  Twitter: @LeicesterBRU
  • The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is funded by the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. The NIHR is the research arm of the NHS. Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public, driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy, and developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research. The NIHR plays a key role in the Government’s strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its world-class infrastructure for health research. Together, the NIHR people, programmes, centres of excellence and systems represent the most integrated health research system in the world. For further information, visit the NIHR website (
  • The NIHR Leicester Cardiovascular Biomedical Research Unit (BRU) at Glenfield Hospital aims to improve the diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of cardiovascular diseases. The unit provides state-of-the-art facilities and equipment to assist researchers in their complex projects. It is one of 20 BRUs in England funded by the NIHR. It is a partnership between the University of Leicester and University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust. The Unit's director is Professor Sir Nilesh Samani and the manager is Dr Martin Batty.

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