The Internet is aflame with a contentious report about a recent study telling us eating too much red meat will shorten our lives.
Once again, the conventional propaganda machine spews its unfounded and nonsensical fear-mongering out to the public ear, and what ensues is sheer panic. In the last week, I can’t tell you how many people I’ve had comment or ask with great trepidation:
“is red meat safe to eat?”
I wonder just how many paranoid people are going to curtail their meat consumption even more than they already have?
This is a subject I feel very strongly about. My mother made red meat a lot when I was a child, but I honestly never took to it. For many years after, I disliked red meat unless it was appropriately disguised in something or had a lot of seasoning or flavoring on it. Looking back I thought it was because meat was terrible, but now that I know what real, grassfed meat tastes like, I know that it wasn’t my mother’s cooking or because I was finicky (and I was very finicky). The meat tasted awful because it was conventional.
I admit I was also brainwashed into thinking all meat was bad for our health by conventional health recommendations.
If you’ve been an omnivore for sometime, you don’t have to give up your meat consuming ways. So, before you go to your refrigerator or freezer and throw out all your red meat, there are some things you should know.
If you are a vegetarian for health reasons, there are some things you ought to know about this and other studies which conclude meat is bad for our health.
The method behind the red meat study
An Pan from the Harvard School of Public Health and colleagues examined data from 37,698 men and 83,644 women. They compiled this from 2 previous studies done over 25 years ago, from 2 different groups of people. All subjects were asked to complete a questionnaire revealing their dietary habits, every 4 years. Surveys about food consumption are known for their inaccuracy as they aren’t an good reflection of what they actually consumed. Many respondents cannot remember what they’ve eaten with certainty from day-to-day or week to week. People are also prone to be less than truthful about what they ate, especially when it comes to confessing about foods they’ve eaten which are perceived as unhealthy.
The results showed the following: those diagnosed with a medical condition were more likely to misrepresent meat consumption on the survey than those without a diagnosed medical issue. Don’t forget, this was the bulk of where the “scientific” data originated from in this study to draw the conclusions that red meat causes premature death.
The study conducted was observational in nature. According to Denise Minger who was featured on Mark’s Daily Apple earlier this week, the study was not “an actual experiment where people change something specific they’re doing and thus make it possible to determine cause and effect. Observations are only the first step of the scientific method—a good place to start, but never the place to end. These studies don’t exist to generate health advice, but to spark hypotheses that can be tested and replicated in a controlled setting so we can figure out what’s really going on. Trying to find ‘proof’ in an observational study is like trying to make a penguin lactate. It just ain’t happening… ever.”
Minger goes on to explain that even though the head researcher, Frank Hu emphatically claimed that the study gave obvious evidence that regular red meat consumption contributes to early death, “only an actual experiment, with controls and manipulate variables, could start confirming causation. ” Minger is well-known for her excellent rebuttal to Colin T. Campbell’s (author of the infamous China Study) theories on the superior health benefits of a plant-based diet.
The study’s author, An Pan (Harvard School of Public Health) even admitted that the “link” wasn’t absolute proof that eating red meat causes premature death.
Other important variables not factored into the study
To provide accurate results, other lifestyle and dietary considerations are critical.
From the Sun Times:
“To determine the risk of eating unprocessed red meat or processed meat, the researchers factored out other lifestyle factors, including age, weight, physical activity and family history of heart disease, and dietary factors, such as intake of whole grains, fruit and vegetables, nuts, legumes, dairy products, fish and poultry.”
Dietary consumption of polyunsaturated fats, white flour, and sugar are all culprits of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and early death. These 3 highly processed ingredients are very commonly found in a majority of foods people consume. But the researchers did not take these foods into account as to health condition or causes of death.
Here’s what the Weston A. Price Foundation has to say about polyunsaturated fats, white flour, and sugar:
“The cause of heart disease is not animal fats and cholesterol but rather a number of factors inherent in modern diets, including excess consumption of vegetables oils and hydrogenated fats; excess consumption of refined carbohydrates in the form of sugar and white flour; mineral deficiencies, particularly low levels of protective magnesium and iodine; deficiencies of vitamins, particularly of vitamin C, needed for the integrity of the blood vessel walls, and of antioxidants like selenium and vitamin E, which protect us from free radicals; and, finally, the disappearance of antimicrobial fats from the food supply, namely, animal fats and tropical oils. These once protected us against the kinds of viruses and bacteria that have been associated with the onset of pathogenic plaque leading to heart disease.”
Many commercial meats contain nitrates
An Pan also admitted that nitrates and salt content in processed red meat could be an answer as to “the relatively higher risk found in processed compared with unprocessed red meat.” Nitrates are used in a variety of processed meats, even so-called “healthy” and “all-natural” meats to increase shelf life. Nitrates are carcinogenic and can cause a variety of health issues that can cause fatal disease over time, such as cancer.
As well, the type of salt used on the meat is also key. Refined table salt, which is what is used in most commercial meats, is primarily comprised of sodium chloride. Due to high heat processing of the salt, this chemical alteration destroys minerals. Unlike real sea salt which has not had vital trace minerals removed, sodium chloride is a poison to the body. Magnesium, among other minerals eliminated during high heat processing of salt, is important for heart and circulatory health. The lack of magnesium from eating foods such as sodium chloride can contribute to a rise in blood pressure, heart arrhythmias, and other problems.
Refined salt also has a number of additives in it: to keep it dry and reduce caking, food manufacturers add aluminum compounds, dextrose or other refined sugars are added for a stabilizer, MSG, and bleaching agents are used to make the salt have a white appearance for the consumer market. It is for these reasons that table salt can cause water retention and other issues. Food companies also use large amounts of sodium chloride, causing more problems. Sodium chloride is a poison to the body. It causes edema, artery damage, high blood pressure, the onset and continuation of heart disease, diabetes, and many other illnesses associated with chronic inflammation and Metabolic Disorder.
Why is meat being blamed for our health problems?
Red meat has been eaten all over the world by traditional societies for thousands and thousands of years. But not all meat is the same. One reason meat is getting the heat is that most meat people consume comes from animals in confinement, administered antibiotics and hormones, and eating unnatural types of feed such as soy, corn, grain, and other silage (many of these are predominantly GMO in source). As we discussed earlier, many toxins and chemicals are also added to meat such as MSG, refined salt, sugar, corn syrup, and other additives and preservatives that are harmful to health.
Take a look at most any study where the results conclude meat is bad for us to consume. Where is the differentiation between this horrific, industrial abomination described above and safe, grassfed meat without additives, chemicals or other toxins, and from healthy animals living out on pasture? These reports don’t take into account the superior health benefits of such a pristine and nourishing food.
Why factory farm meat doesn’t stack up
Cattle are ruminants and not meant to consume grain, they are designed to digest grass. Pigs can eat other feed such as clovers and annual grasses like oats, rye, wheat, and ryegrassbarley, root vegetables, and even fermented dairy leftovers. But soy and corn should be avoided due to the inflammatory effect these substances on the meat. When you produce meats in this manner, the nutritional quality of the meat diminishes greatly.
The ratio of Omega 6 essential fatty acids to Omega 3s is typically 20:1. CLA content (conjugated linoleic acid) is almost non-existent. When these nutrients are out of balance in the foods they eat, the result is all the symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome – diabetes, heart disease, weight problems, high blood pressure, stroke, and cancer.
This is the meat you hear about on recall lists all the time and in the news. We are so bombarded with this information, it’s rare when the media doesn’t have a field day about this topic. One of the latest scandals is pink slime reports in the news, served to children at school. Yuck.
In our modern diets, we eat far too many Omega 6s, which creates an inflammatory response in the body, setting the environment up for disease. Omega 3s, on the other hand, are something we are in much shorter supply of in the modern food supply. Omega 3s are essential for brain, immune, heart, and digestive health.
Grassfed meat supports health
Author Stanley Fishman has produced two fantastic books on the subject of healthy, grassfed meat and how to prepare it: Tender Grassfed Meat and Tender Grassfed Barbecue. In the first book he talks about the reasons why he decided to choose grassfed over factory-farm meat. Grassfed meats from grazing animals out in the open are quite a different story from industrial meat. He describes why real, grassfed meat is so different in nutritional composition, flavor, and the way it is produced.
The essential fatty acid ratios are ideal for Omega 6s to 3s at 4:1. Grassfed meats and dairy products are actually the richest source of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) there is. CLA is a healthy fat which serves as an antioxidant to the body (cancer-fighter), and protects cardiovascular health. It also supports metabolism function and immunity, keeps cholesterol level, stabilizes blood sugar levels to prevent heart disease and diabetes, and encourages the production of lean muscle mass.
CLA is primarily found in the fatty sections of meat. What you won’t find in factory and commercial meats is much of a fat cap. If you do, you can be assured it won’t contain much CLA. These meats are artificially produced to be lean and without fat. Meat without fat is not healthy for us to eat.
Stanley presents a number of ways and recipes in the book to prepare it for the best eating experience possible, in your own kitchen. This book is a staple in my house and I have referred to it many times while cooking grassfed meats.
I just received my copy of Tender Grassfed Barbecue and I am looking forward to learning how to better prepare my grassfed meat for outdoor eating this season, as I have a lot to learn on this subject.
The Weston A. Price Foundation discusses the truth about why red meat, fat, and cholesterol aren’t the culprit of heart disease:
“There are many societies where the populace consumes high levels of animal food and saturated fat but remains free of heart disease. Dr. George Mann, who studied the Masai cattle herding peoples in Africa, found no heart disease, even though their diet consisted of meat, blood and rich milk. Butterfat consumption among Masai warriors, who consider vegetable foods as fodder for cattle, can reach one and one half pounds per day. Yet these people do not suffer from heart disease. Mann called the lipid hypothesis “the greatest scam in the history of medicine.” It is a scam that has been used to convince millions of healthy people that they are sick and must take expensive drugs with serious side effects, a falsehood that has persuaded Americans to adopt a bland, tasteless diet simply because their cholesterol has been defined as being too high.” Source.
The grassfed meat challenge: busting myths about meat
Cardiologist: “Lowfat diet scientifically and morally indefensible” – The Healthy Home Economist
Tender grassfed meat – Stanley Fishman, author of Tender Grassfed Meat and Tender Grassfed Barbecue
Red meat is still not bad for you, but shoddy research clueless media are – The Healthy Skeptic
The amazing benefits of grass-fed meat – Mother Earth News
This post is part of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday Carnival.
12 replies on “What’s the Real Scoop on Red Meat and Higher Mortality Rates?”
Awesome post! The mainstream media is treating this meaningless study as if it is absolute truth, favoring head lines like ” Red Meat will Kill you!”
Truth is, as you pointed out, that grassfed red meat is one of the healthiest things anyone can eat.
The internet has become our best defense against such propaganda, and you have done a magnificent job of showing the truth.
Thank you for showing just how worthless this study actually is.
Thanks for the kind words, I appreciate them.
Thanks for posting this – I will share it with my family. We posted a response to the same study a couple of days ago:
The Red Meat Death Scare
Thanks for your support Stanley, you know I appreciate it very much. 🙂
Hello Foodsmiths – glad you are sharing this. I will also check out the link you provided. Great information, keep up the good work! 🙂
Thank you for another well informed article and putting it straight! Juliette
We can argue till the cows come home about what diet is healthier… But there’s no mistaking which one is the most compassionate. And if we can live fine (evidence shows we can) without harming innocent creatures – Whether factory farmed or “grass-fed” – Why wouldn’t we?
Bea – in order for life to continue, death happens. It’s a cyclical process, and without other things dying, we couldn’t sustain life. Plants have to die in order for us to live, how is that any different? Really, to deny the process of life and death is to deny our existence.
People have eaten plants and animals for thousands upon thousands of years. If we are going to eat, we should do it as sustainable and in harmony with nature as possible. Just because we are at the top of the food chain doesn’t make us evil, it makes us survivalists. Our ancestors ate animal products and that has ensured the survival of our species.
Dr. Weston A. Price discovered on his travels that there was no example of a plant-based society that was healthy. Have you read his literature? Nutrition and Physical Degeneration:
I agree about the content of your article, as well as I agree with the fact that plant-based diets cannot support a full lifestyle. There are those, like Bea, who will undoubtedly argue that it can, but until you suffer a disease such as the one I have, where your body simply has to have those good fats and oils to sustain itself, a vegetarian or vegan will not understand – and I don’t even try to get them to understand. It’s been my experience you can provide links, books, articles, journals, blogs and whatever else to these people, but they simply will not understand about marbled steaks and properly prepared meats, much less do they understand the cycle of life itself.
D. Smith – agreed, but when someone comments on my blog with statements like “harming innocent creatures” it simply has to be answered with something, and something rational.
Excellent post, with very accurate information! As always, thank you for sharing!
[…] Meat, dairy products, and cheese have received a bad reputation for many years. However, the distinction between animal foods raised on pasture and the industrially-produced versions of these foods is not addressed often enough! Grass-fed meats & poultry, eggs from hens on pasture, and raw dairy foods from healthy cows provide critical nutrients not found elsewhere in our food supply. These include fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K2, Omega 3s, Vitamin B12 and other B family nutrients, a variety of minerals, and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid, an important antioxidant). […]
I know you don’t like to ban people, but I wouldn’t be opposed to it here. He’s just deliberately inflammatory and constantly derailing the comment section. It’s really obnoxious.
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