The conventional wisdom that red meat causes cancer, heart disease, etc. is often refuted by the paleo community, citing that the red meat used in these studies are conventional and overly processed. As I stated in a comment in another thread, I somewhat see an analogy between this defense and the defense of sugar by saying that refined white sugar is terrible, but organic, local sugar cane is terrific. Of course, there are significant differences between sugar and meat processing, but I wonder if the gist of the faulty logic is the same.
Most studies do not link white meat with cancer. White meat is similarly conventional and overly processed: I can't recite numbers, but for every hot dog consumed there's probably a chicken nugget and a breaded fish stick. In fact, white meat is often even higher in PUFA. It's my belief that some people on paleohacks may be pulling a veil around their eyes. They've grown to ignore CW so much that sometimes semi-legitimate information is dismissed as "incomplete science" or "strictly motivated by corn/soy producers." I often notice that any study that creates such cognitive dissonance is usually promptly dismissed by one of these explanations. Iron, plus factors such as Neu5gc, distinguishes red meat in particular. Although I don't feel saturated fat is the issue, I feel there is likely some matrix of components that does make red meat harmful in large amounts.
I'm not extremely familiar with how the red meat statistics are obtained, thus this may simply be an issue of correlation rather than causation. Health conscious people who exercise, count calories, may just skew towards white meat. I wonder if there's an experimental study v. an observational study--and if so, this experimental study will help us understand loads. Nevertheless, I hope this may help people reevaluate their zero-carb, steak 3 meals a day diet. Maybe my intuition is right, and maybe it's wrong and red meat is harmless: I simply think that we should take a step back from our militant anti-CW stance so that we don't blind ourselves to useful information.
asked byAlexis (892)
Get FREE instant access to our Paleo For Beginners Guide & 15 FREE Recipes!
on July 24, 2011
at 04:55 PM
My opinion is that most "health conscious" Americans kind of dodge a bullet because they use chicken as a neutral protein and pretty much just eat the low-fat breasts, so they probably don't get much PUFA from it. I and others who were binging on things like whole roast chicken experienced better health when switching to grass-fed meat. Like you said, there haven't been enough experimental studies on grass-fed meat, but the ones that are out there show a positive effect on health. And studies that do distinguish between processed and unprocessed red meat show the fault is in the former rather than the latter. I'd like to see a study on people who eat only pastured meat and who don't eat out. Fat chance that will happen any time though. In the meantime we can look at our own markers and see if we have any inflammation. Maybe Ray Peat is right and we should make sure to eat nose to tail, therefore not actually getting too much red meat. I personally eat this way and at least 40% of my meals are based on bone broth/marrow/organs rather than the meat itself.
on July 24, 2011
at 06:07 PM
Why I say that red meat isn't a problem it is because the evidence that people use to try to justify the red meat hate doesn't support it. I have read it and I understand basic logic. That the red meat data that they use is partially on processed meat and therefore we can't extrapolate to non-red meat and certainly not to grass-fed meat is correct, it isn't cognitive dissonance in action, it is the result of the evidence http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20479151 No association between grain-fed factory farmed fresh red meat but a big correlation between processed meat. We can't extrapolate any of that to grass-fed as well. Grass-fed meat is extremely nutritious and contains more of anti-carcinogenic compounds http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20143104 No that isn't my desperate attempt at justifying my red meat consumption, it is basic logic and I happen to be confident enough in my ability to think clearly to not be intimidated.
That is why people say that. There are also other takedowns of the ridiculous nonsense. There was Tom Naughton's on colorectal cancer http://www.fathead-movie.com/index.php/2011/05/26/the-lastest-meat-causes-cancer-bologna/ and Jaime Scott does tons of great ones http://thatpaleoguy.blogspot.com/2010/12/medscapes-red-meat-paradox.html Just look through his blog.
If white meat isn't associated with disease but red meat is (in some poorly controlled cohort studies), what does that mean? It could mean a lot of things but the fact that one is perceived as healthy and the other isn't tells us all we need to know. These are observational studies, not experimental ones. What do I do and what should we do with observational studies? I would probably say throw them out and stop wasting money. But the other option is to go test them, and there don't seem to be any experiments in humans that properly control over time due to the massive cost of doing them. I found a case-control study on carcinogenesis of lung cancer. Harsh cooking techniques seems to be causative but ones like boiling are protective http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21338220 That is another thing to consider, there are so many confounding factors it is mind-boggling.
Epidemiology can always go both ways. Want to cherry-pick studies that show a correlation between meat and cancer? Now I'm going to cherry-pick some that don't http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20232386 Of course there is no contradiction of reality, it is just that epidemiology is mostly inept in a sea of confounding factors. Heck every single nutrient and lifestyle factor is a confounder.
Just because you think that you have a mechanism doesn't mean that it applies to all situations, or is even applicable in any of them. Aside from extremely harsh cooking techniques in the case of the metabolic syndrome (although I'm not so sure about in healthy people) there aren't any plausible ones that are supported by the evidence. The notion that iron is just complete death and causes colorectal cancer is absurd. Anemia or cancer? Gee thanks, mother nature. It appears that certain foods like red meat have compounds that are protective against such things http://thatpaleoguy.blogspot.com/2011/02/carnosine-colons-and-cancer.html
on July 24, 2011
at 04:55 PM
I can't comment on the methods they use for surveying meat consumption although my intuition tells me they are dubious at best.
What the conventional wisdom still fails to do though, is distinguish between the idea that it's too many lipids in our diet and the idea that it is the degeneration of these lipids breaking down (oxidative damage) that actually causes heart disease. That's why so many people on here wisely talk about avoiding PUFAs. High cholesterol alone will not cause heart disease, high cholesterol along with lots of oxidative damage however can do a lot of bad things to our bodies.
So to answer your question, I have no plans on curbing my red meat intake, however I pretty much avoid all white meats (chicken/turkey/etc.).
on July 24, 2011
at 06:00 PM
Well, since dairy products make me sick, and wheat makes me sick, and sugar makes me sick (and addicted) doesn't it mean something that eating tons of beef and beef fat makes me feel terrific and lose weight?
In about 5 months, I've dropped about 30 pounds and my blood pressure and blood glucose are great. So, if red meat isn't really good for me it must be a long long term issue because in the short term it's a great solution.
on July 24, 2011
at 05:00 PM
Studies that connect "red meat" with cancer, heart disease, etc. generally lump whole, natural sources of animal flesh (steak, pork chops, etc.) with processed, chemical laden "meat" products.
The Inuit are a prime example of how well people can live on real meat (fat, muscle, organs, connective tissue) and literally nothing else.