13 March 2012

Study finds red meat may not be edible - but only in the US

Chapter 5: Fats: from tonic to toxic
Chapter 23: Cancer: disease of civilization

Many in the UK will have heard on the news today that yet another study from Harvard University [1] has linked the eating of red and processed meat with an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.

This study is largely nonsense and quite irrelevant to us in the UK. There are lots of similar accusations about red meat, which really only apply (perhaps) to processed meat. The two are always lumped together just as saturated fats and trans fats are, even though the former is healthy and latter is harmful.

But there is more to this. Think of all the peoples in the world - Maasai, Inuit, Samburu, Marsh Arabs, Naga, and many more - who, when they lived exclusively or largely on red meat, DIDN'T get any form of cancer or heart disease.[2-8] There is also no evidence that eating red meat increases cancer and heart disease risk in UK or in mainland Europe. [9]. (See also page 102 of T&T)

The right - healthy - way

You see, all this red-meat-cancer stuff is confined entirely to the US. And it is not difficult to see why this might be so. Firstly look at the way most cattle are farmed today in the US - in concentrated animal feed operations (CAFOs), where the animals are not fed their proper diet of fibrous grasses and vetches, but starchy and omega-6 rich genetically modified soy and cereal grains. This ruins the health of the cattle so that they have to be dosed with antibiotics, it changes the fatty acid components of their body fat, and it reduces the amount of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). And CLA is a powerful anti-cancer agent, which Americans cut off and don't eat!

The wrong - unhealthy - way

And, as we all know, the US is so fat-phobic that even healthy animal fats are trimmed off and replaced with starchy and sugary carbs - which DO increase the risk of both diseases.

None of those things applies in the UK (except the fat-phobia). Incidentally, there is no evidence I know of that the processed meats found throughout Europe - bacon, ham, sausage, salami, wurst, cabernossi, chorizo, cassoulet, etc, are harmful in any way either.

What this latest study really demonstrates (if it demonstrates anything at all) is that the red meat produced and processed in the US might be unhealthy, if consumed as part of a carb-rich diet. Which may be why the health of the US population is about the worst in the industrialised world.

1. Pan A, Sun Q, Bernstein AM, et al. Red Meat Consumption and Mortality. Arch Intern Med. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2011.2287.

2. Hoffman FL. The Mortality from Cancer Throughout the World. Newark, NJ: The Prudential Press, 1915.
3. Cope, J. Cancer: Civilization and Degeneration. London: 1932.
4. Berglas A. Cancer: Nature, Cause and Cure. Paris: Institute Pasteur, 1957.
5. McCarrison R. Studies in Deficiency Disease. Cornell University Library, 1921.
6. Jenness D. The Copper Eskimos. Vol. XII, Report of the Canadian Arctic Expedition, 1913-18. Ottawa: The King’s Printer, 1923.
7. Stefansson V. Cancer: Disease Of Civilization? American Book-Stratford Press, Inc. 1960, Chapter 14.
8. Mann GV (ed). Coronary Heart Disease: The dietary sense and nonsense. London: Veritas Society, 1993.
9. Cox BD, Whichelow MJ. Frequent consumption of red meat is not a risk factor for cancer.
BMJ 1997; 315: 1018.


Anonymous said...

Hi Barry
I've just heard this on the BBC news.I eat red meat including offal about five times a week so this report did concern me somewhat.I can't afford organic meat so can I be reasonably certain that animals are more humanely and naturally reared here in the UK? I think its disgusting to treat animals the way they are treated in the USA. I might eat them but they do deserve our respect and care whilst they're being reared.

Alan S said...

Glad you commented on this study. Had two of my friends ridicule my low carb, high fat diet and I had to explain why this study cant really be trusted for reasons similar to what you have mentioned.

It's easy to be fooled by media report of 'evidence' of unhealthy eating until you truly understand the poor science involved in these so called studies.

Only with the advice of experts like you would I have ever been able to navigate myself through the misinformation that the media feed us (no pun intended).

Vierotchka said...

The Maasai and the Samburu tribes (closely related, same ethnicity, same language, same customs, same religion) do not live exclusively on red meat. In fact, they rarely eat meat, they do so only on very special occasions. What they live on is fresh blood drawn from their cattle and mixed with milk. I know because I have lived with both tribes.

Barry Groves said...

I agree, Anonymous. But the way that Big-Agro, with its 'monoculture-for-profit' approach to farming, which is harming animals, and our health, as well as destroying the health of the soil on which all depends, is nothing short of scandalous. Perhaps the US will make the practice illegal - ha!

I am aware, Vierotchka, of how the Maasai and Samburu live, which is why I wrote about them in the past tense. These days (since the 1950s), they are not so nomadic. Being more settled, they are growing and eating grains and legumes. And, as a consequence, their health is not as good as it was half a century ago. But what is it that makes red meat red? Blood. That is the only real difference between a so-called 'unhealthy' beef steak and the 'healthy' chicken breast which is recommended in the Harvard study.


Anonymous said...

Just a thought.If the blood in meat is part of its nutritional benefit then doesn't it follow that halal meat is less healthy? Also, I'm no anthropologist but i can't think of a single ethnic society that has stood the time test ( I'm talking in thousands of years here )and
survived on a purely vegetarian diet.

Anonymous said...

Barry, perhaps you could enlighten me. Are the majority of cattle and sheep in the UK reared on grass. I tend to keep away from pork because it's easy to confine pigs to a shed but not so with cows and sheep. Am I deluding myself?

Alan S said...

This online butcher, for me, is a good place to get grass fed meat delivered to u.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Alan.

Barry Groves said...

Hi Anonymous

It makes no financial sense to keep cattle indoors if they have a nice comfortable - and free- field in which to live. So, yes, cattle - and particularly sheep - are normally kept out on grass for as long as possible. In the winter conscientious farmers feed hay and silage while their beasts are indoors, although sheep are usually left out in the fields and given supplements when necessary.

As you say, however, while pigs used to be fed on potatoes, bread and kitchen scraps, these days they are fed a wholly controlled and unnatural diet - by law - in the UK. This is based on cereals and soyabean. For this reason , I do not consider that farmed pork is healthy. Occasionally I am able to get back-garden raised pork, but this is rare.


evelyn, Ohio said...

“Each additional daily serving of processed red meat (bacon, hot dogs, sausage, salami, and bologna) was linked with 20% increased risk of death overall, 21% increased risk of heart disease-related death, and 16% increased risk of cancer-related death.” — Bastyr Center

That's scaryy!!

Jeniffer said...

The problem is what cows eat today...before this s...it of animal food everything was healthier