Friday Food Talk: Research On Red Meat Raises Questions

This article says red meat is ok except when processed

A recent study published by the Harvard School of Public Health has gotten a lot of attention in the blogosphere this week.  Most analyses of the study conclude that red meat is indeed bad for us, but here are two somewhat differing views on what the findings may actually mean.

The first is an excerpt from an article found at the Archives of Internal Medicine by Dean Ornish, MD, Holy Cow! What’s Good For You Is Good For Our Planet.  The second is an article found at   

But both articles agree that a balanced, mostly plant-based diet that includes a variety of protein sources with moderate quantities of lean meat is best. As with all research, whenever information is gained, new questions are also raised.  The study is not about organic v. nonorganic which seems like an important variable to look at.

Holy Cow What’s Good For You Is Good For Our Planet by Dean Ornish, MD   LINK

Is red meat bad for you? In a word, yes. In this issue, Pan et al describe the outcomes from more than 37 000 men from the Harvard Health Professionals Follow-Up Study and more than 83 000 women from the Harvard Nurses Health Study who were followed up for almost 3 million person-years.

This is the first large-scale prospective longitudinal study showing that consumption of both processed and unprocessed red meat is associated with an increased risk of premature mortality from all causes as well as from cardiovascular disease and cancer. In a related study by Pan et al, red meat consumption was also associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Substitution of red meat with fish, poultry, nuts, legumes, low-fat dairy products, and whole grains was associated with a significantly lower risk of mortality. We have a spectrum of choices; it’s not all or nothing.

Plant-based foods are rich in phytochemicals, bioflavonoids, and other substances that are protective. In other words, what we include in our diet is as important as what we exclude, so substituting healthier foods for red meat provides a double benefit to our health.

Pan et al reported that adjustment for saturated fat, dietary cholesterol, and heme iron accounted for some but not all of the risk of eating red meat. Thus, other mechanisms such as nontraditional risk factors may be involved.

There is an emerging consensus among most nutrition experts about what constitutes a healthy way of eating:

  • little or no red meat;
  • high in “good carbs” (including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and soy products in their natural forms);
  • low in “bad carbs” (simple and refined carbohydrates, such as sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and white flour);
  • high in “good fats” ({omega}-3 fatty acids found in fish oil, flax oil, and plankton-based oils);
  • low in “bad fats” (trans fats, saturated fats, and hydrogenated fats);
  • more quality, less quantity (smaller portions of good foods are more satisfying than larger portions of junk foods, especially if you pay attention to what you are eating).

In addition to their health benefits, the food choices we make each day affect other important areas as well. What is personally sustainable is globally sustainable. What is good for you is good for our planet.

Are Burgers Healthy? Why Red Meat is NOT Bad For You  LINK

Nutrition expert Alan Aragon writes a monthly review (Born Approved) dedicated to analyzing published studies. What stood out to him? It wasn’t the dangers of meat. Instead, it was this line from the researchers:

“In addition, a higher red meat intake was associated with a higher intake of total energy but lower intakes of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.”

One could just as easily argue that it was the lack of fruits…or vegetables…or whole grains…or all of them combined that contributed to the negative health assertions made by the researchers. Or at the very least, we know that the people who were eating more red meat were also consuming a poor diet that was low in high-quality micro-nutrition.

“This whole idea of pointing the finger at a single dietary culprit in the development of a multifactorial outcome is hilariously preposterous,” adds Aragon. “Epidemiological data is observational and thus uncontrolled. It’s hypothesis-generating, and is incapable of demonstrating causation. There is no direct evidence that red meat is a special agent of disease.”

The bottom line:  As always, what you eat is up to you. The argument isn’t about whether you should or shouldn’t eat meat–it’s about whether red meat is inherently dangerous. As a practical way to ensure your health, mix select lean cuts of red meat with fattier options if you are trying to prevent overeating (because fatty cuts are very caloric). Stay active, eat fruits and vegetables, consume protein from a variety of sources, sleep more, and enjoy your meat without guilt.


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One Response to Friday Food Talk: Research On Red Meat Raises Questions

  1. David Ulrich says:

    Mr Aragon I think is stretching as far as he can to either validate his belief that red meat is healthy or is attempting to deceive his readers into believing something he knows is untrue. Or it is possible that he is an Evangelist who is attempting to persuade others to validate his own beliefs. At any rate his attempts at proving that this latest in a long line of research all showing that red meat is unhealthy for humans to eat, is somehow flawed. He claims that the meat might not be bad but a lack of good foods that is bad. Well that would all be fine if all meat consumption caused the same level of mortality, but it doesn’t. People who ate other meats did not experience the same mortality as red meat eaters. Both meat eating groups potentially ate the same amount of healthy foods as side dishes around their meat. so it can not be a lack of healthy food that is causing these findings. It has to be the red meat. But that does not even begin to tell the whole story we have much more detailed studies which show that eating meat is unhealthy. From the Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) which are chemicals formed when muscle meat, including beef, pork, fish, and poultry, are cooked using high-temperature methods, such as pan frying or grilling directly over an open flame. To the MERSA and other pathogens which infect most of the meat on the market today. And even leaky gut syndrome where the difficult to digest meat protein starts perforating the intestinal wall and makes its way into the blood stream where it is seen as an invader and must be removed by the immune system. This effectively lowers the ability of the immune system to defend the body from other attacks. What this means in every day life is if you go out and have a big steak for lunch then go back to an office where people are sick your chances of catching the disease yourself is significantly increased. Oh and in case you are thinking where am I going to get my B12. There is mounting evidence that B12 is not bio available from meat in any significant quantity. Two recent studies have shown that 40% of Americans have sub normal levels of B12. The studies also showed that the amount of meat eaten had no bearing on the B12 levels of the participant. The time has come for people to stop listening to hucksters like Alan Aragon and do some research on their own. Meat, All Meat is not a natural food for humans. It never has been since the dawn of time and will not become one in the future. There is a reason that populations which eat the highest amount of meat live the shortest lives and the populations which eat the least or none live the longest. It is choice time in America the number of people who eat a plant based diet has doubled in the last 5 years. The choice is clear, eat meat die an early death, most likely from some horrible disease, or eat a protective plant based diet, and most likely live a long healthy life.


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