Red Meat is Good For Heart, Does Not Cause Heart Disease Or Strokes

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.

To get more common sense information about nutrition, visit the site below. 

Advanced Cardiovascular Testing – Best Test of Your Heart Risk and Cholesterol

Are you at risk for heart disease? Advanced Cardiovascular Testing (ACT) is the next generation of heart disease risk assessment. It provides a lot of information that helps doctors figure out whether you are at risk or not.

You know that we are experiencing an epidemic of cardiovascular disease (CVD).  Almost a million people die from CVD every year. In fact, it is the #1 cause of all deaths.

Almost 2,400 Americans die of CVD every day- an average of 1 death every 37 seconds. More than 148,000 Americans killed by CVD in 2004 were younger than 65 years of age.

Almost 2.5 million new cases are diagnosed every year and about 1 in 3 adults has some form of cardiovascular disease. It is truly an epidemic.

The way we test for heart disease now is by checking total cholesterol, triglycerides, HDL (“good”), LDL (“bad”), and the ratio between the two. This method is not very good because it misses many people who have heart disease and falsely targets many who don’t.

For example, more than 50% of the people who get a heart attack have normal cholesterol levels. And many people with high cholesterol do not have heart disease. In fact, more heart attacks happen in people with cholesterol under 200 than over 300. What is going on?

The answer has to do with lipoproteins. You see, cholesterol, both LDL and HDL travel in the blood attached to proteins. This combination is called lipoprotein (lipo means fat). When talking about cholesterol, most people imagine it as a single piece, but in reality cholesterol circulates in the blood as many thousands of tiny lipoprotein particles.

Each particle has a certain size and in this case size definitely matters. Both LDL and HDL cholesterol come in 2 sizes.

Small and dense LDL particles are worse than medium-sized. Small are bad because they can attach to the lining of the arteries with ease. This can cause inflammation that proceeds to cause plaque. They make your heart disease progress twice as fast and increase the risk of heart attack by 300%! On the other hand, medium particles are pretty harmless.

There are also two sizes in the HDL cholesterol – large and medium. The large one is the most useful. It is like a sponge that soaks up the loose small LDL particles and returns them to the liver for reprocessing. This HDL is a real protector of heart health. On the other hand, medium HDL is not nearly as effective.

There are different types of lipoproteins, depending on what kinds of fat and cholesterol they are carrying. Some of them are worse than others.

For example, Lp(a) (pronounced lipoprotein little a) is the most damaging lipoprotein of them all because it makes small LDL particles extra “sticky” so they hang on to the arterial wall with more tenacity, causing more inflammation and damage.

Lp(a) alone has ten times plaque-causing power than small LDL particles. Too much Lp(a) increases the risk of heart attack by 300% even if there are no other risk factors present. Statin drugs are no help here, in fact they may actually drive the level up.

About 25% of US population has high level of Lp(a), but most of them have no idea because it is not usually checked.

By now, I hope you understand that measuring only total cholesterol, LDL and HDL levels is not helpful at all and can be very misleading. As I mentioned, almost 500,000 people a year have heart attacks even though their doctors gave them a clean bill of health because their cholesterol was “normal.” And millions of people with plenty of large HDL particles take unnecessary statin drugs.

You need to know not just the total amount of cholesterol, but the size and the type of lipoproteins you have. You may have “normal” LDL level, but if most of it is in small dense particles, you are definitely in danger. On the other hand, you may have high LDL, but if it is mostly medium-sized, you don’t have to worry about it and you certainly do not need drugs to lower it.

Similarly, you may think that you are OK because you have high HDL level, but if the HDL particles are small, they don’t really protect you all that well.

What you need is to ask your doctor for the new ACT test. It not only measures the total levels of LDL, HDL, and triglycerides. It provides the size of the LDL and HDL particles (large or small) and a total number of each.

It also checks the level of Lp(a) and other lipoproteins, such as apolipoprotein A1 (good) and apolipoprotein B (bad). Plus, it also measures HS CRP (high sensitivity C-reactive protein) and Lp-PLA2 (lipoprotein-accodiated phospholipase A2), both of which reflect the level of inflammation inside the arteries. Inflammation is what causes the damage to the lining of the arteries, leading eventually to plaques and heart disease.

All in all, the ACT test provides a lot of useful information, which is not available from the typical cholesterol test. It really tells you if you are at risk or not. 

For more information on blood tests please click the link below.