People have been eating red meat (beef, port, lamb, etc.) for literally thousands of years. It was an important part of our diet from the time when animals were domesticated some 8,000 – 9,000 years ago.
Dr. Weston A Price was a dentist who was interested in nutrition as it relates to dental health. He traveled around the world to study “primitive” and “undeveloped” cultures to see how healthy they were and what they ate. Starting in 1930s he visited African tribes, Alaskan Eskimos, native population of the Polynesian Islands, and people living in Swiss Alps.
He was surprised to find healthy teeth, healthy bodies and very little disease. These “uncivilized” people did not know cancer or heart disease. And they all had similar eating patterns.
Dr. Price found that all traditional cultures consumed animal protein and fat from land animals, fish and seafood, water and land fowl, eggs, milk and dairy products. They did not use low fat products or skim milk. Yet, they were much healthier than the “civilized” Europeans and Americans who were eating a lot of processed foods.
Even in the US before 1940s a typical diet was high in saturated fat from meat, butter, and lard, but heart disease and cancer were virtually unknown. All that has changed with the introduction of the lipid hypothesis of heart disease in 1951 in the American Journal of Medicine. Hypothesis means a theory or an assumption, not a proven fact.
According to this hypothesis, fat and cholesterol in food cause heart disease. This idea has never been proven, but it became politically correct to blame fat, cholesterol, and red meat for the epidemic of heart disease, cancer, and other health problems.
The fact is that red meat is an excellent source of many nutrients, such as protein, iron, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, selenium, and B vitamins, especially B1, B3, B6, and B12. It also contains large quantities of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), which is important for energy production. There is some CoQ10 in every cell of the body, but especially in those parts that need a lot of energy, such as muscles and the heart.
We need iron to make hemoglobin, a protein in red cells. It is also used to make myoglobin, the protein in muscles. Zinc is necessary for immune function, protein production, muscle building, digestion and metabolism, growth, and healing of wounds. Selenium in important for anti-oxidant enzymes that prevent cellular damage and even reduce the risk of cancer.
Beef is also a good source of CLA or conjugated linoleic acid, which has anti-cancer properties. According to medical studies, natural CLA reduces the risk of most cancers.
But why do the “experts” recommend avoiding red meat? Why do they say that it increases the risk of heart disease and cancer? Because of ignorance, political correctness, and very questionable studies.
Red meat is supposed to be bad for you because it contains cholesterol and saturated fat. But both are absolutely necessary for normal function of every cell of the body. Your body will produce cholesterol and saturated fat even if you never eat them.
Have you ever wondered why beef is loaded with cholesterol and fat? After all cows are vegetarians, so they don’t eat any cholesterol. The answer is they make it, just like you and I make cholesterol and fat to support normal function of all the organs and tissues in our bodies.
Both fat and cholesterol are used for many biological functions. They are needed to make cell membranes, the skin of the cells that regulate what comes in and goes out of the cells, how cells respond to various hormones, and how they react to other messenger molecules.
Cholesterol is also a precursor of many hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, and many others) and vitamin D. Bile is made from cholesterol as well as myelin, the protective cover of every nerve. For more information about this subject please see my other article called Cholesterol Does Not Cause Heart Attacks – Low Levels Linked to Strokes, Cancer, and Infection.
All the studies that link red meat with heart disease and other diseases are flawed. They are based on the dietary analysis that is questionable at best. People in the studies have to describe what they ate in the last 12 months. The questionnaire used in such studies can be found at FDA site or search for “NHANES food frequency questionnaire.”
A typical question is “Over the past 12 months how often did you eat chicken?” The choices range from once a month to 6 times a day or more. I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember what I ate a month ago. I am pretty sure that most people would not remember accurately what they ate over the past 12 months. So it is very unlikely that study participants provide accurate and reliable dietary information.
As if that was not enough, all the studies lump red meat together with processed meat, such as cold cuts, bacon, etc.
If you read every study carefully, you will see that a diet high in red meat and processed meat is associated with a modest increase in heart disease and cancer. If is almost certain that processed meat is to blame, not the meat itself. Processed meat is loaded with unnatural chemicals, such as sodium nitrite, which has been linked to cancer.
The fact is that heart disease and cancer were virtually unknown in 1900. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Center for Health Statistics, in 1900 heart disease was responsible for 6.2% of deaths and cancer for 3.7%.
In 1997 heart disease was the #1 cause of death, being responsible for 31.4% of deaths, with cancer a close second at 23.3%.
Both disease became epidemic in the last 50-60 years, just about the time when people started reducing meat consumption and increased the intake of refined carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, white rice, sugar, pastry, etc.) and vegetable oils or products made from them (margarine and butter-like spreads).
Real unprocessed beef (steak, hamburger, etc.) is an excellent source of important nutrients, many of which cannot be easily obtained from other food sources. Meat is not a poison. It is a great and nutritious food that can and should be used as part of a balanced diet.
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