Healing With Whole Foods: Meat, Heart Disease, Diabetes, and Diet

Hi Everyone!

A study just came out in the journal Circulation that shows a pretty strong correlation between eating PROCESSED meats and the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Not terribly surprising, except that this study was rare in showing that eating unprocessed (whole) meats had no effect on disease risk.

Take it or leave it. The meat industry (specifically, the American Meat Institute, an industry funded research organization) is up in arms. Even though this is great news for livestock and poultry farmers, because it should increase sales of chicken, beef, and pork whole muscle meats by consumers vs. processed meat like hotdogs, this is not good for meat profiteers (industry suits).

The study is BAD NEWS for meat industry profits overall, because in the meat industry, like most other corporate food groups, the money is mostly in processing and "value-adding" (code for conversion to "junk food") to foods for consumers. More additives plus less real whole food = larger profit margins in agribusiness (REFERENCE). They can make the same amount of meat go a lot farther by processing it, literally, to death.

That's why the meat industry is screaming bloody murder. Basically, this news eliminates the "middle men" between the farm and the consumer's table. Each one of the middle men takes a cut of the (meat) pie. So if people eat less processed meat and more unprocessed meat, there's less money for the middle men who staff the management positions in meat processing plants and agribusiness HQs. These middle men don't care about the farmers. In fact, they try to exploit the farmer's as much as they can to LOWER the cost of the raw, unprocessed meat so that when they process it into beef jerky and ballpark franks, they can get higher profit margins selling consumers chemically laden meat by products.

There's some bias to this study, granted. The meat sources for a lot of processed meats are the rendered parts of the animal that wouldn't generally be consumed in their whole natural form (organ meats, gristle, etc.). So it is hard to say if eating these parts of the animal in their unprocessed form would affect disease risk. Even so, the fact that whole muscle meats were NOT shown to increase disease risk is telling in the face of years of messages to the contrary from nutrition researchers. Past research has been very mixed on the health risks of eating meat, in large part because few studies have compared processed and unprocessed meat consumption, as this study does.

From the stand point of the paleolithic dietary hypothesis, the study itself makes common sense. Human beings evolved for millions of years eating a diet scavenged from nature. It consisted mainly of fruits, nuts, vegetables, and whole, lean, unprocessed game meats. It was low in salt and fat. The fat it contained was rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids. It is no wonder that the healthiest foods (the ones that DON'T cause chronic diseases) are the very same foods we are biologically designed (adapted) to eat (REFERENCE).

Of course, our hormone-fed, genetically modified livestock today produce meat with a very different nutritional profile than the game meats eaten by our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Most importantly, they are fed on grain, which produces a meat high in omega-6 fatty acids and low in omega-3 fatty acids. This fatty acid profile has been shown to be out of sync with our ancestral diet fat profile (REFERENCE). Agricultural meats are also proportionately higher in fat overall than wild game meats (they are fattened with high-calorie diets, a form of "value adding" to the food). Thus, it is even more interesting that our agriculturally generated meats don't seem to significantly increase chronic disease risk, at least with respect to heart disease and diabetes.

The bottom line is, if you load your meat up with chemicals and salt, it's going to hurt you. Duh!

I know that when I eat brats or hot dogs, I don't feel 100% afterwards. This is the body's way of saying, "Hey, you are forcing me to deal with some foreign stuff I don't know what to do with!" The body has to work extra hard to metabolize chemicals, generating inflammatory free radicals in the process that damage cells and organs. Over time, this leads to chronic diseases that are largely irreversible. Heart disease and type 2 diabetes are two of these diseases.

Meat industry whiners aside, at least now you don't have to worry as much when you eat that steak or 100% Angus ground beef burger. You probably still want to avoid the fries and the sugar-laden soda. But when it comes to eating whole food meats like your ancestors did, go crazy!

Just not too crazy, because this is only one study and more research needs to be done (code for "we scientists aren't as smart as people think, and we've been wrong before...").


1. Eating Processed Meats, but Not Unprocessed Red Meats, May Raise Risk of Heart Disease and Diabetes, Study Finds (SCIENCE DAILY)

2. A Guilt-Free Hamburger (WALL STREET JOURNAL)

3. Red and Processed Meat Consumption and Risk of Incident Coronary Heart Disease, Stroke, and Diabetes Mellitus. A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis (CIRCULATION: Research Study Abstract)


Cardiovascular Disease Resulting From a Diet and Lifestyle at Odds With Our Paleolithic Genome: How to Become a 21st-Century Hunter-Gatherer (FREE FULL TEXT)

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