On a recent instagram post about red meat, where I suggested that meat is not bad for you, someone commented that I was a charlatan and that the science was in consensus about the health dangers of red meat consumption.
Now I’ve received comments like this before, from having a youtube channel and discussing non-mainstream views on health. Calling naturopaths quacks and charlatans is done without thought by those who get their medical education from the internet or spend too much time believing what they learned through conventional routes of medical education.
What I did find interesting was the term he used–“scientific consensus.” It reminded me of the scientific consensus that climate change is happening.
Without reading the literature on climate change I am inclined to believe that the scientific consensus is onto something. I’ve heard many times that the sea level is rising, glaciers are melting, and animals are going extinct because of climate change. I can believe that. I’ve watched planet earth on netflix and short films by National Geographic that have clearly shown me that there is a change in the climate. Beyond that, I have no idea as I have not studied the details. I just recycle and aim to reuse what I can.
But is there a scientific consensus that red meat consumption is bad for your health? Well, I am going to break down the science for you, without citing it, because it’s a huge waste of time. If I cite research for you, I will have you making the same mistake the Instagram commenter did. Instead of talking about science that has been published, we are going to think about our own unique scientific experiment (in part two especially). If I cited research that shows no association between saturated fat consumption and all-cause mortality, you might be more likely to believe me, but would you keep reading and be stimulated to construct the big picture as we will do now? I doubt it. Most likely, people will say, “okay cool I can eat red meat” and move on. Well yes you definitely can but here’s why.
Why people think red meat is bad
The two bad things in red meat that are mistakenly attributed to be the cause of its alleged negative health effects are saturated fat and cholesterol. Since pharmaceutical companies have successfully spent billions of dollars convincing patients that cholesterol is a bad guy and that lowering it will improve cardiovascular disease outcomes, red meat seems like a bad idea. It’s mind-boggling that all of this is a huge lie.
The other day a middle-aged gray-haired male was reading side effects of a statin his doctor was interested in him taking at an Indian restaurant where I indulged in a buffet after fasting. This man was also seeing a naturopath, since we were in Oregon where a lot of insurance companies cover naturopathic primary care (they do what MD’s do, and prescribe some herbs along the way depending on how naturopathic they are; unfortunately many have compromised their values but that is another discussion). I started a conversation with him.
“Have you heard of red yeast rice (RYR)?”
“Ah yes, I have! What are your thoughts on that?”
“Well, I recommend it. It actually contains lovastatin. 40 mg of RYR will contain about 10 mg lovastatin, while working just as well as 40 mg of lovastatin. You also get other compounds in there so instead of just one that blocks the crap out of one enzymatic pathway you have more than just one mechanism of action. Furthermore, since you use less statin, you have less muscle cramping and more CoQ10, an important mitochondrial factor that aids in energy production and declines with age. See if you’re on a statin you might have less exercise tolerance because of your reduced CoQ10. It’s just a theory as there aren’t a whole lot of studies on this but exercse is very good for heart health so it’s ironic to me that being on a statin can inhibit your ability to derive the benefits of something you should be doing for your health.”
This individual was very happy I spoke with him.
People who like listening to the “scientific consensus” tend to place too much trust in published research and don’t seem to investigate the matter on their own. They hope that things are right but there are always missing pieces of information. They will say that statins have shown reduced risk of major adverse cardiovascular events and that the benefit of treatment outweighed the risks. It sounds wonderful, but they don’t think holistically, as I attempted to demonstrate above in my conversation with this man. If we are interested in health, we need to go beyond outcome measures and look inwards.
That should answer whether or not saturated fat is bad for you. The research shows X, or Y, or Z, but doesn’t consider everything in between. Research may have shown in the past that a high fat diet fed to mice led to increased aortic plaques and a reduced lifespan. Substitution of the saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats diminished this increased adverse effect. Although compelling, we don’t eat the way mice and rats do in these studies. And that’s why the large studies have found no effect from saturated fat consumption and heart attacks (to be discussed in part three).
Studying a real diet is often too complicated for research purposes. Research must have clearly defined outcome measures, interventions, populations, and control groups. What goes on your plate is not as clearly defined as a saturated fat.
In part two of this segment, I will begin the discussion on why red meat actually isn’t bad for you with an emphasis on holistic thinking. This post was meant to I guess get the thinking process started. Stay tuned!