managing an LCHF lifestyle in Israel
It’s already two weeks after the last storm – “red meat causes premature mortality” – and since most of us have been busy with other things whether with Passover preparations or primaries in the Kadima party … But about a week ago I came across an interesting article and decided to share. (It took a few days to get permission to publish and a few more to translate …)
So what is “red meat” that’s so dangerous for us? Good question! The doctor Ralph Sundberg (surgeon, researcher, debater, and writer* who’s interested in nutrition and health issues, socially and scientifically) wrote an excellent explanation and analyzed the last “research” (yes, the one that got echoed in media two weeks ago). The article can be found (in Swedish) here and here’s the translation. Yes, a bit long but worth it! :
“Is red meat now deadly?
By Ralph Sundberg, 14 March 2012
The hunt against the original diet of mankind continues. The latest scare came yesterday, when data from two studies were put together by Harvard researchers Frank B. Hu and Walter Willett and their team, and published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.
You can read the article here: http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/archinternmed.2011.2287
Even before the article was available to us researchers for reading, the media was ready to pass the dreaded message: You will die prematurely from red meat by cancer, cardiovascular disease or in any other way.
But what was the size of the risk raise? They calculated that a fifth of the subjects who ate the most meat had increased mortality of 20 to 30 percent. It sounds scary if you’re not used to examine this type of research, but to those who are, it is certainly not impressive. When one also look at how many died during the study, the mortality rate was very low. In fact, increases of this magnitude rarely depends on what scientists would like us believe, but by other ignored factors. In this study people who ate the most meat also smoked more, drank more, exercised less and ate more calories in general. There is therefore no reason to panic.
Hu and Willett reach similar conclusions time and again from their material, but usually one diagnosis at a time. The message they bring is consistent with the desires of the food industry and agriculture politics. Meat is expensive. It requires greater effort from people and renders low income.
Let us ask ourselves what is red meat. In biology we talk about red and white muscle. Red muscle contains iron in a substance called myoglobin, which makes the muscles more sustainable. Birds have red muscle in their thighs , while the wings are made of white muscle. White manage faster and more explosive work and is therefore find in the wings of birds and crocodiles who use his strong body only to burst an attack on his victim burst has therefore white muscle.
But these diet researchers don’t care about biological definitions. They invented their own definition. Red meat is beef, lamb, and pork. Even if you talk about red meat from chicken or ostrich, it’s not red meat by their definition.
So what’s so bad with so-called red meat? These scientists don’t know.
So is there a difference between chicken and this non-biological defined so called red meat that can explain why?
All are warm blooded, and therefore contain roughly equally long fatty acids with fairly equal distribution between saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Ruminants have partly a slight different fatty acid composition containing fatty acids with unequal carbon atoms, but pigs don’t, so that may not be the difference we seek.
As for the omega-3/omega-6 balance there can’t be any different if the animals get identical food. Today it consists mainly of corn and wheat. Perhaps one could imagine that chicken here in Sweden, who received fish meal and didn’t taste chicken had a bit more omega-3 from the sea, but I don’t think that’s the case in the U.S.
Is it then the proteins that are different between the animals? No, there are no significant differences in amino acid content.
Is it iron? Willett and Hu raised the idea that the amount of iron is significant when they calculated colon cancer, but didn’t find anything convincing. Furthermore, fact is that the chicken contains more iron than lamb, so it can’t be iron either.
Mussels and shrimp contain by the way as much iron as so called red meat, so what prevent us from classifying them as such, along with ostrich and swordfish?
For infections and antibiotics at chicken plants, not to mention the non-ethical turkey industry, where these poor things now have so big developed lean breast muscles that they can hardly stand and fail to mate so they need to be inseminated, I don’t think we can find anything to speak in favor of these meats being better healthwise.
Is there some kind of infection? So far there are no indication for that either. So what is it?
So there is no reason to believe the concept of red meat. It’s a deliberately designed illusion. That chicken and other poultry aren’t red meat is an arbitrary condition to calculate results such as these.
There’s no plausible biological explanation.
In other words, this is data dredging. Manipulation of numbers. When no “desirable” association was found a few decades ago between meat consumption and morbidity, a weak link could be calculated if chicken was taken out of the calculation. Maybe it started because people who do better financially with better health could afford such luxury food before the industrial production started? We can only speculate.
Once you start to market the concept “red meat” as a health risk, it affects those included in studies, not only in terms of what they eat, but also on how they report. This tendency is clear even in this study as consumption of so called red meat decreased as time went by. But what they really consumed we know less. There’s great uncertainty in studies based on self-report, and what’s reported mainly reflects the prejudices that we scientists distributes via media.
If one looks at the tables one finds as mentioned above a few oddities that support it. Thus there is a strong correlation between the calculated caloric intake and consumption of so called red meat. And we know that high calorie intake corresponds high mortality in Western diseases, don’t we?
Another thing that raises the doubt. Serving sizes are determined arbitrarily and is far smaller for processed meats than for whole meats. Two slices of bacon at 13 grams is a serving, as is for the Wiener sausage of 45 grams. Salami and other sausages are also calculated with more servings per gram than pure meat. To what will it lead statistically when hot dogs and sausages that are eaten with bread is counted twice? Isn’t it be more honest to report in grams?
The authors raise possible mechanisms and speculate as expected on iron and myoglobin without mentioning that lamb contains less iron than chicken, mussels and shrimps. They also raise nitrate and nitrite as nutritional supplements, but here they show their ignorance when they claim it may cause endothelial dysfunction, i.e. that the blood vessels would feel worse, while the opposite is true! They obviously didn’t read the study that they refer to that states that endothelial dysfunction is observed when nitrite levels are low in the blood. We know that low levels of nitric oxide contributes to diabetes gangrene and erectile dysfunction.
So these kind of studies can’t prove any causation. It’s only a mean in the ongoing struggle between different economic interests. For some reason, they steadily become more and are referenced in more detail in the press. Of course with the right marketing they become a gold mine for researchers dealing with their own special interests, whether reported or hidden.
I don’t write this to defend high meat consumption. To be healthier we in the West shouldn’t eat more protein but less carbohydrates and more fat, including animal fat that’s similar to what our bodies create under ideal conditions.
Also, I think it’s advantageous to eat a lot more fish and seafood than Americans do, which may not get a chance to emerge clearly in a U.S. study where consumption is generally low. This because the amount of omega-3 makes a crucial difference in terms of health, not only the heart , but also mentally. Here’s a reasonable biological mechanism to hang on and build a theory that epidemiological studies don’t provide. We need equal amounts of DHA and AA in the brain for optimal synapse function, ie maximum thought speed.
Poor studies combined with lack of understanding of the biology lead us, however, only to errors. It favours only certain special interests. Isn’t it tiring, with all this alarmism that the news agencies communicate in an almost reflexive manner without consideration of the interests that may lie behind. “
Good for you getting all the way here 😉 And now – what do you think?
* In 2011 he published the book: “Research fraud!: how you get fooled by the food and drug industries”