Every now and then, a media frenzy erupts after another food study determines that red meat is a killer. Like the one that came out last week in the Archives of Internal Medicine titled, Red Meat Consumption and Mortality, that claims eating meat leads to premature death.
The first point you want to be aware of in regard to this study is that it was an observational study, not an authentic scientific experiment. Observational studies don’t take place in a controlled environment where important variables can be monitored. In fact, they used food frequency questionnaires (FFQs) that asked people what they have eaten over the course of several years, relying on each subject’s honesty and ability to recall what they ate for dinner years ago. All of which leaves room for a great deal of unreliable data.
Red meat can be found in things like pizza, fast food burgers, and corn dogs. These products contain ingredients that are detrimental to your health. This doesn’t mean that all red meat is unhealthy and should be avoided. No one would advise you to stay away from apples just because candy apples and apple pastries are unhealthy, so why is this acceptable when it comes to red meat?
Observational studies cannot draw any real or concrete cause and effect conclusions. Typically, observational studies are only the first step in the experimental process, used to generate hypotheses that are then put to the test in a controlled environment to see if they can be replicated. Observational studies are “innately incapable” of providing evidence. Mark Sisson has written an excellent rebuttal to this study titled, Will Eating Red Meat Kill You that I encourage you to read.
Although this study separated the processed meat from the unprocessed meat and found that both resulted in premature death, many of the studies in the past who set this whole “meat will kill you ” movement into action were based on individuals who were eating processed meat like bacon, sausage and deli meats, which isn’t even food, and consumed very few vegetables.
Additionally, this study did not take into account other variables like the negative impact that the consumption of grains and sugar has on one’s health, what kind of environmental toxins these individuals were exposed to and whether these subjects were eating an abundance of vegetables. Either of these factors could have a significant impact on mortality.
The second crucial fact you want to note is that not all meat is created equal. Like other whole, healthy foods, red meat can also become unhealthy when it is changed from its natural state. For example, frying your meat at high temperatures can create carcinogens; but most importantly is that this study, like all meat studies, does not look at organic, grass-fed meat.
The composition of organic, grass-fed meat is profoundly different than the conventional main stream meat supply that most individuals are consuming, including those in this study. As a matter of fact, they are so different, that it’s as if we are talking about completely different foods.
Traditional, grain-fed, confined, and factory farmed cattle is void of the nutrients that are found in organic grass-fed cattle and has an imbalance in its essential fatty acid structure.
Cattle are supposed to eat grass, not grains. Grains disrupt their essential fatty acid structure, and consequently, yours as well when it is consumed. The human body needs essential fatty acids in a particular ratio, typically an omega-6/omega3 ratio of about 2:1.
Grain- fed cattle can have an omega-6/omega-3 ratio of about 20:1. It is this high level of omega-6 and low level of omega-3 that leads to heart disease, degradation of brain function, inflammation and poor health overall, not red meat in general. The omega-6/omega3 ratio of grass-fed cattle is about 0:16 to 1 or 3:1. Thus, very healthy for our heart, brains and overall health.
Additionally, grain-fed commercial cattle are also pumped with hormones and antibiotics that among other things disrupt the endocrine system and the nervous system and leads to a host of degenerative health conditions like cancer. So, again it is the hormones and antibiotics that promote poor health, not the red meat itself.
Not only that, and maybe most frightening of all, is the fact that grains are not the only thing commercial cattle is being fed. It is common practice in commercial cattle farming to feed them chicken manure, chicken feathers, cardboard, newspapers, and even bubblegum still in the wrapper, to save money and fatten them up. Now that sounds like a diet that will produce some healthy cattle doesn’t it?
As many health experts like Dr. Joseph Mercola and Dr. Al Sears point out, organic grass-fed beef is not associated with any of the negative health effects and does not promote disease that are found in factory farmed, grain-fed cattle, because it is not subjected to any of these ill health practices. Grass-fed cattle is raised naturally in its native environment, free to roam as it pleases, eats its native diet, is treated humanely with respect and consciousness and never pumped full of hormones or antibiotics.
Furthermore, Dr. Mercola states that “since meat from grass-fed animals is lower in fat than meat from grain-fed animals, this means that it is lower in calories as well. By switching to lean grass-fed beef, it is estimated that the average person in the U.S. could reduce intake up to 17,000 calories a year, which is equal to losing about six pounds! Imagine how this could impact the national epidemic of obesity.”
Dr. Al Sears tells us that “by avoiding beef, you are over 7 times more likely to suffer a zinc deficiency. Red meat is the only dietary source of heart-critical CoQ10 and you can’t get reliable dietary sources of B12 from anything but animal sources like liver, fish, eggs and meat.” Dr. Sears prescribes red meat for all his patients.
Furthermore from Dr. Sears, “studies have shown that the plaque in arteries that causes heart disease is mostly made of unsaturated fats, especially polyunsaturated ones (in vegetable oil), not the saturated fat of animals.” And one massive study on heart disease by Russell Smith, PhD. showed that when the consumption of animal products increased, mortality rates decreased!”
From, the Weston Price Foundation we hear “Red meat is a rich source of nutrients that protect the heart and nervous system including vitamins B12 and B6, zinc, phosphorus, carnitine and Coenzyme Q10.”
In fact, organic, grass-fed beef and buffalo encourages good health by providing an abundance of essential fat-soluble vitamins, healthy fats, and antioxidants, some of which aren’t available in plant foods. Let’s take a look at a few other health benefits we find in grass-fed red meat in more depth.
Organic Grass-fed Red Meat is High in Conjugated Linoleic Acid
Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a natural trans-fat. As opposed to the artificial trans-fats, CLA has been shown to protect your body against disease by sweeping away free radicals. CLA is effective in warding off cancer while reducing atherosclerosis and diabetes. It also plays a crucial role in combating insulin resistance, inflammation and osteoporosis.
Red Meat is High in Vitamins A and E
Vitamin A is essential for healthy cells, clear vision, bone growth, and immune function. It keeps the skin strong and maintains the mucous lining of the digestive system. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that provides protection against disease-causing free radicals.
Grass-Fed Red Meat Contains Antioxidant Enzymes
Cows that feed on green grasses consume glutathione compounds. Glutathione is an antioxidant that protects cells and prevents disease. Grass-fed beef is also high in other powerful antioxidant enzymes, like superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase.
Red Meat is a Good Source of B12
B vitamins are essential to a healthy nervous system. Those who are deficient in B vitamins, especially B12, are prone to cognitive problems. Plants don’t contain real B12, only a similar compound that can’t be used by the body. This compound interferes with the absorption of the real vitamin B12 found in animal products, putting those who don’t eat meat at risk of becoming deficient.
Red Meat is The Only Reliable Source for CoQ10
CoQ10 is critical for good heart health as well as energy production. Every cell and organ in your body uses CoQ10 for the energy they need to function. If you’re not eating meat, then you aren’t getting any, which leaves you at risk for heart disease and much more.
Eating Red Meat Provides All Your Essential Amino Acids
Among other things, amino acids are the building blocks for neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers used by the communication system of your brain and body; responsible for regulating emotional states, energy, sleep, behavior, memory, learning and pretty much any other function in the human body. Animal protein is the only way to acquire complete proteins that provide all your essential amino acids. All other plant or seed sources are incomplete or inadequate in comparison to meat. Assuring you have adequate levels of amino acids and essential fatty acids in your diet helps protect you from or improve conditions like depression, anxiety disorders, addiction of all kinds, insomnia and ADHD.
Red Meat is a Good Source of Cholesterol
Yes, I know you think you’re supposed to avoid cholesterol, but that is not true either. Like most things in life, cholesterol is a matter of balance. The human body needs cholesterol to produce all its steroid hormones like, cortisol, progesterone, estrogen, testosterone and aldosterone. The whole high cholesterol craze has resulted in a large part of the population that doesn’t have enough cholesterol to produce these life-sustaining hormones. Red meat is a supreme source for restoring that balance. The primary source of high triglycerides is sugar and carbohydrates, not meat.
Red Meat Balances Your Blood Sugar
It is meat and fat that stabilizes insulin and blood sugar, not carbohydrates. Thus, increasing your meat intake is the best aid for conditions like hypoglycemia, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease and all conditions associated with the overconsumption of sugar and carbohydrates.
Removing red meat from the diet has not resulted in better in health, as matter of fact, the physical and mental health of society in general deteriorates more and more each year. Obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease, depression, anxiety, violence, etc. continue to rise. That is because eating red meat is not the villain; it is sugar and the overconsumption of starchy carbohydrates that break down into sugar in the body, consuming grain-fed cattle and the slew of environmental toxins that we are all exposed to on a daily basis. These are the real threats to your mortality, not eating red meat.
Grass-fed cattle, like other whole foods, are loaded with health benefits. Controlled experiments prove that the nutrients contained within red meat are essential to human health, while observational studies provide unreliable and skewed results. Conventional grain-fed meat, fast food, microwavable meals, and other forms of processed meats can’t provide the health benefits that are enjoyed by including meat in your diet, especially grass-fed beef or buffalo.
Daley, Cynthia A., Amber Abbott, Patrick S. Doyle, Glenn A. Nader, and Stephanie Larson. “A Review of Fatty Acid Profiles and Antioxidant Content in Grass-fed and Grain-fed Beef.” Nutrition Journal 9.10 (2010). Print.
University of Alberta. “Natural Trans Fats Have Health Benefits, New Study Shows.” ScienceDaily, 2 Apr. 2008. Web. 15 Mar. 2012.
Byrnes, Stephen. “Myths of Vegetarianism.” – Weston A Price Foundation. The Weston A. Price Foundation, 30 Dec. 2002. Web. 15 Mar. 2012.
Rush University Medical Center. “Low vitamin B12 levels may lead to brain shrinkage, cognitive problems.” ScienceDaily, 26 Sep. 2011. Web. 15 Mar. 2012.
Dr. Al Sears
Dr. Joseph Mercola
Mark Sisson, Will Eating Red Meat Kill You