There is a raging debate in the nutrition community on the question, does meat cause or fuel cancer and heart disease. In taking a look at the broad debate and research, it seems prudent to look at 1) different types of meat, and 2) the micronutrient intake of an individual.
Integrative health blogger Emma Goulart took a look at a recent study which explored the link between meat consumption and cancer. The first thing she noted was there was no mention of the type of meat in the study.
She then went on to make this interesting observation:
"I spent hours looking into the study that was done, as well as the others referenced and specifically at IGF-1. Turns out that IGF-1, this indicator for cancer, is induced by Growth Hormone… You know, Growth Hormone, the thing they fatten animals up with?!"
This is a subject that we are going to be taking a deep look at, and will be updating this page as the discussion evolves.
Our working thesis at PEERtrainer is that first and foremost, one needs to have extremely high levels of micronutrient consumption. These are things in plants, fruits and vegetables. Dr. Joel Fuhrman has spent his career documenting and promoting the link between low levels of micronutrient consumption and almost every single disease.
But one thing Dr. Fuhrman has yet to do is explore or acknowlegde the distinction between different types of meat.
It does seem clear for many reasons that one should avoid processed meats and conventional factory meat. But research does seem to show that certain kinds of "cleaner" meats, especially in the context of a micronutrient rich diet, might not pose a risk. Dr. Fuhrman's own conclusion is that one should keep meat consumption to less than 10% of total calories.
At PEERtrainer we use meat as a flavoring in our recipes and our new Cheat System Diet. Dr. Fuhrman does not approve of our approach...yet. We are working on him ;)
Here is a list of "Meat Myths" that Brian Rigby has been working on for us:
Myth: Meat increases rates of chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.
Fact: Some types of meat are associated with increased risk of some cancers, but meat does not cause cancer or cardiovascular disease.
Processed meats, like deli meats, are the most highly linked to cancers, particularly colon. Most newer studies show non-significant increases in cancer risk from eating unprocessed red meat.
The same holds true for heart disease—the association is only significant and positive for processed meat consumption.
High intake of fruits and vegetables appears to also be protective against any negative effects red meat may have on health.
Fish is associated with lower risk of many cancers. Poultry has no significant associations at all—it appears to be neutral.
The Cheat System already discourages processed meat consumption and encourages high vegetable consumption, so there is really no health risk involved with a dieter properly following the Cheat System protocol. In fact, The Cheat System incentivizes high levels of greens.
Myth: Meat increases risk of osteoporosis.
Fact: For a long time, doctors have worried that the increased calcium in the urine of individuals on high-protein diets is evidence that calcium is being taken from the bones and excreted. New research shows that protein increases absorption of dietary calcium. Excess calcium is excreted in the urine, and newer research consistently shows that meat has no overall effect on bone health.
Meat is high in sulfur-containing amino acids, which could cause the body to draw calcium from the bones to buffer the blood. The increased absorption of dietary calcium would likely make this effect insignificant. Eating fruits or vegetables with meats appears to completely counteract this effect.
The Cheat System encourages high vegetable consumption, so there will be no effect on bone health from meat consumption.
Myth: Vegetarians/vegans live longer.
Fact: There’s not really any strong data to suggest this—there’s simply too many cultures, with too diverse of diets, to count them all.
Of the five “Blue Zones” which are popularly noted as having the longest living people on Earth, only one is actively vegetarian (the 7th Day Adventists in California). The rest (Sardinia, Italy; Ikaria, Greece; Nikoya, Costa Rica; Okinawa, Japan) regularly consume meat.
Noting that an American who eats meat lives less long than American vegans or vegetarians is meaningless. American’s typically have poor diets, consume excess food, and have many confounding lifestyle factors like lack of exercise. Vegetarians and vegans tend to be more health conscious and consume less calories. The Cheat System is primarily plant-based but incorporates meat into daily meals, just like the majority of the Blue Zone diets.
These are the three primary health reasons vegetarians and vegans cite for eschewing meat. There are environmental and ethical reasons, but those aren’t relevant to nutrition!
In all cases, meat is typically not the culprit so much as low intake of fruits and veggies. Focusing first on fruits and veggies will ensure meat has no adverse effects. Nobody is making the argument that we should eat tons of meat. Well, none of us, anyway (there are always Paleolites, etc. who do).
The Cheat System diet is focused first and foremost on nutrient-dense foods. Meat is added in reasonable amounts. Any argument that too much meat is bad for you ignores the truth that too much of nearly any food often has adverse consequences. The healthiest diets are the most diverse diets. Meat fits into that diversity very well!
Please leave your thoughts and questions in the comments section below. We look forward to a robust discussion of this interesting topic!
If you are a health blogger and have any thoughts, drop a link to them or post them in the comments below.