Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Meat of the Matter by Jerry Brainum

You've probably read many times about how bad it is to eat meat. These warnings are based on numerous studies that have linked eating meat to the onset of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Some of these studies suggest a close association between eating meat and colon cancer, while others implicate the saturated fat content of meat as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. A major flaw in all of these previous anti-meat studies is that none of them differentiated between eating processed and unprocessed meats. There are big differences between the two. Processed meats include bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and some types of deli meats. Processed meats are preserved by smoking, curing, or salting, and often contain chemical preservatives.Unprocessed meats include beef, pork, and lamb. A new study just published is a meta-analysis or analysis of pre-existing studies about meat. This analysis reviewed 1,600 previous studies, narrowing them down to 20 relevant studies that featured 1,218,380 people from ten countries on four continents.
      The studies showed that each 50 gram portion or about 1.8 ounces daily serving of processed meats is associated with a 42% higher risk of developing heart disease, and a 19% higher risk of developing diabetes.This amount of food is equal to 1-2 slices of deli meat or just one hot dog. No risks were found with eating unprocessed meats. The danger in processed meats lies in the fact that they contain 4-times more sodium and 50% more nitrite preservatives compared to unprocessed meats.The excess sodium is associated with high blood pressure, while animal studies show that nitrate preservatives can promote atherosclerosis and lower glucose tolerance, explaining why they could cause heart disease and diabetes.As for the colon cancer effect, that wasn't examined in this study. Previous studies have implicated substances produced when meat is overcooked. There is no evidence that normally cooked meat contains any carcinogens Once again, however, the nitrites in unprocessed meats have been linked to stomach and colon cancer onset. Eating grass-fed beef contains higher amounts of certain nutrients, such as conjugated linoleic acid, that are associated with lower rates of CVD and cancer.When you add it all up, there is no reason not to eat meat from a nutritional or health vantage point. From a humanitarian vantage is an entirely separate issue, considering how poorly cattle are treated for meat production.

Micha R, et al. Red and processed meat consumption and risk of incident coronary artery disease, stroke, and diabetes mellitus: A systematic review and meta-analysis.Circulation 2010: in press.

©,2012 Jerry Brainum. Any reprinting in any type of media, including electronic and foreign is expressly prohibited

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