I know you heard about it. Everyone did. It had a strong emotional influence on millions of people in less than 24 hrs. It lit a new fire under an old & sensitive topic. It swept the interwebz by tugging at your deepest fears and triggered some new discussions, heated debates but mostly reinforced long-standing beliefs & prejudices. No, I’m not talking about the Kony 2012 scam, although that was quite similar: we wanted to believe, there’s a scary boogie man, spooky, fear, death, etc. Kony 2012 fraud was the slickest BS I’ve seen in years, but this other topic is far more important.
I said before that if you want to get healthy or lose weight you need better ideas and you need to think differently. You also have to understand the media. And you have to know a little science – this is a problem because most Americans are science illiterate.
The latest ’study’ and media scare on red meat is a perfect example of faulty ’science’ and media hype.
This latest wave of hysteria helped solidify societies preexisting beliefs, taboos, and eating habits with red meat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. People also have emotional issues tied to food/diet, even money (meds) and other things directly connected. And red meat is a controversial or sensitive for some. So you can see how this latest red meat scare can be confusing and/or overwhelming for a lot of people.
Look at this screen shot.
That’s my Google alert for Tuesday March 13. That will scare the poop out of most people who see those headlines coming from all directions at all times of the day.
As expected, the next day brought several solid rebuttals. Here is a list of articles you need to read if you want to know why red meat won’t kill you and why so many people fall for sensationalized journalism & bad science.
Here is a link to Mike’s IF blog where he gives a simple explanation of the bad science part. He also lists 3 other important articles (not listed here) on this latest red meat ’study’.
Denise Minger, is one of my favorite bloggers, here is a classy take down of a bad idea.
Another of my favorite blogs, Anthony Colpo Red Meat Will Kill You and Other Assorted Fairy Tales
Robb Wolf on the Red Meat Scare and Nutritional McCarthyism
One of the main reasons why red meat is so scary is the widespread misunderstanding on cholesterol.
Cholesterol Killer on the Loose?
The idea that ‘saturated fat & cholesterol is bad for you’ is technically known as the ‘diet heart hypothesis’ or ‘lipid hypothesis’. The ‘diet-heart hypothesis’ is concerned with fats in the diet that supposedly raise blood levels of cholesterol contributing to risk for heart disease. The ‘lipid hypothesis’ states that fats in the blood cause heart disease.
Science Fact #1 -Meat is crucial for children’s growth & development.
Science Fact #2 – Cholesterol is needed for your hormones, brain (learning, memory, mood), stress management, vitamin D, digestive health, intestinal wall integrity and infant growth & development. Cholesterol is an antioxidant involved in tissue repair.
Cholesterol rich foods are typically rich in vitamin A, D, K and an excellent source of minerals.
Low Cholesterol is Not Good for You
You know the mantra well: when someone has high cholesterol or doesn’t have it, yet lives in fear of it, they want to avoid it or lower it, right? Avoid red meat and eat egg white omelets. I mean, everyone knows that!
You can look around at global populations to get a perspective on health & some disease states to free yourself from the cholesterol conundrum.
Australian Aborigines have the highest rates of heart disease in the world (about 15 times greater then the UK), yet they have the lowest cholesterol of any population studied. The Swiss have highest cholesterol levels of any population, yet have about 1/3 the rate of heart disease of the UK.
We can also look at better studies for answers to this issue…
Honolulu Heart Program (2001) “Long-term persistence of low cholesterol concentration actually increases the risk of death. Thus, the earlier the patients start to have lower cholesterol concentrations, the greater the risk of death.”
Japan Lipid Intervention Trial (2002) ‘The highest death rate was observed among those with lowest cholesterol (under 160mg/dl); the lowest death rate was observed with those whose cholesterol was between 200-259mg/dl.’
Scandinavian Journal of Primary Health Care (2010) ‘Participants with low serum total cholesterol seem to have a lower survival rate than participants with an elevated cholesterol level, irrespective of concomitant diseases or health status.’
Women have 300% lower rates of heart disease than men despite having higher average cholesterol levels. Circulation (1992) This paper reviewed 11 major studies involving 125,000 women found that there was no relationship between total cholesterol and death from heart disease (or any cause).
The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (2005) ‘Low cholesterol level is a robust predictor of mortality in the ‘nondemented’ elderly and may be a surrogate of frailty or subclinical disease.’
A Hypothesis Out-of-Date: The Diet–Heart Idea’ Uffe Ravnskov, MD, PhD Journal of Clinical Epidemiology (2002) ‘An almost endless number of observations and experiments have effectively falsified the hypothesis that dietary cholesterol and fats, and a high cholesterol level play a role in the causation of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. The hypothesis is maintained because allegedly supportive, but insignificant findings, are inflated, and because most contradictory results are misinterpreted, misquoted or ignored. … A large number of scientific studies contradict the hypothesis that dietary fat and high cholesterol play a major role in the causation of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.’
Rethinking dietary cholesterol. Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care (2011) ‘The lines of evidence coming from current epidemiological studies and from clinical interventions utilizing different types of cholesterol challenges support the notion that the recommendations limiting dietary cholesterol should be reconsidered.’
Cholesterol good. Red meat good.
There’s much more to the ‘red meat will kill you’ meme, there is also saturated fat, politics, agriculture, husbandry, etc. But no, red meat will not kill you. In fact, it is nutrient dense; you will thrive.
If you have a problem digesting it, you have a digestive problem, not a red meat problem.
If you want to learn more about the pros and cons of eating red meat from leading experts in nutrition, check out The Great Health Debate.
Red meat is probably the best food, along with broth & butter, available to those of us fortunate enough to eat this.
When I get red meat, I prefer beef, bison, elk, and lamb. I get grass fed most often, and often get fattier cuts and bones (broth/gelatin). I prefer whole cuts rather than ground, but ground is cheaper.
When I go out to eat, I know which restaurants have grass fed meats in my city. When I travel, I research ahead of time.
I live in NYC. I eat out often and love it. I go to all sorts of places…when I get grain fed beef; I choose lean cuts (less fat, less toxins). I prefer commercial red meats over commercial poultry/pork any day.
My 15 years as a veg*n were an important part of my life, but overall I think it’s a bad idea. I love steak. I’ll take my medium rare, thank you.
Know your farmer and your butcher. These people are awesome. They are family.
Know farms, know food. No farms, no food. http://www.eatwild.com/
Eat & encourage others to eat foods with saturated fat, cholesterol especially from locally raised animal foods (meat, eggs, dairy). Eliminate industrial oils (vegetable, corn, canola, soy, salad dressings, etc.) and reduce PUFA from grains, nuts, seeds, fish oils, and processed foods.