Red meat controversy

Oh my, the researchers are at it again. Giving us conflicting information. About beef. No wonder folks have trouble with what to eat.

At Harvard School of Public Health, authors of one such recently published study takes a strong stand that red meat is bad for you. Period. End of sentence. They reviewed food records of subjects in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study and Nurses’ Health Study for nearly 25 years. They found even a 3-ounce daily serving of red meat was associated with a 13% increased risk of dying during the study. Adding one serving of processed red meat, like hot dogs or bacon, led to another 20% increased risk of dying.

Curious, no one really knows why it’s so bad for you. Some say the iron and saturated fat contribute to heart disease and diabetes. There’s those nitrates for curing and high-temperature cooking that creates harmful cancer risk.

Scary. Lots of Americans eat this way. Bacon, eggs and toast in the morning, hamburger at lunch, and steak tips or roast for supper. Wonder why they don’t believe the research?

Maybe because of THIS study comparing DASH (voted #1 overall diet for any reason in America) to the BOLD diet – The Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet. Note the word lean red meat. The DASH diet included lean red meat, white meat and animal protein in their diet but it’s main focus was fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low or no-fat dairy. BOLD’s primary source of protein was, you got it, lean red beef. Both diets reduced LDL (bad cholesterol) so BOLD is saying ‘eat lean red meat – it does a body good.’ And oh, tell those DASHers to eat more lean red meat!

Oh, guess who funded the BOLD trials? Yep, ding ding ding you won the door prize – America’s Beef Farmers and Ranchers through their Beef Checkoff Program. Well, don’t that beat all?

Who to believe? Well, studies need to be replicated – many times before their point becomes a sticking point. When that happens, we can usually take stock in the results. In the meantime, while someone’s out there replicating BOLD (and I hope it’s not the Beef Council), I know for sure that the ‘red meat is bad for you’ theme has held true over and over again.

If you want to believe that too, get your labs checked.

  • Start with substitutions for red meat, like fish, poultry, nuts, seeds and legumes.
  • Consider plant proteins like legumes, soy foods and seitan (wheat gluten).
  • Up the ante on whole grains like oats, quinoa, kamut, and wheat berries.
  • Lower the fat in dairy. Go easy on cheese.
  • Then, a year later, get your labs checked again. Call me and tell me what they tell you.

Arch Intern Med. 2012 Mar 12. Red Meat Consumption and Mortality: Results from 2 prospective cohort studies.



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