Nutrition Myth: Red Meat & Heart Disease


The Myth.

There has been varied evidence in support of the argument that red meat such as beef, lamb, hamburgers etc. increase our risk of heart disease (HD) for a couple of decades now. The exact mechanism by which red meat is said to increase our risk of HD changes from study to study but the supposed outcome is always the same. The more red meat we consume, the faster we will die of a condition related to heart health. Scary stuff!


Thankfully, our desire to lose body fat often ties closely with wanting to improve our overall health and live a long and happy life. Having a lean, strong frame is a good indicator of health after all! For this reason many people we start working with, who have previously tried to lose body fat and boost health, instinctively swap their red meat for super-lean white meats and fish. The result is often that they feel less satisfied with their food, they might struggle to increase strength in the gym and sometimes really struggle to lose body fat.


Why Do We Believe This Myth?

Some of the reasons for which red meat consumption is supposed to cause us harm are as follows…

  • L-carnitine, a nutrient found in higher amounts in red meat verses white, is transformed in to a harmful compound within our gut (called TMAO) that is linked to atherosclerosis.
  • The saturated fat and cholesterol found within red meat is thought to be greater than white meat, and we all know this stuff is terrible for us, right? See my previous blog on High-Fat Diets LINK.
  • There are now a number of cohort studies that show (generally and correlatively) that the more red meat one consumes, the faster we die of heart disease.


The Truth.

First, let me be super clear and agree wholeheartedly with part of the above. I have no doubt at all that eating poor quality hamburgers, sausages, bacon and cheap cuts of red meat will cause you ill health. In fact, I believe that eating poor quality white meat, fish, eggs and even vegetables or fruit will cause you ill health! You can’t become healthy by eating unhealthy animals and plants.


The problem with the evidence to date is that no study has ever been published that controlled the quality of the red meat consumed or the dietary practice with which the subjects consumed it. The data shows that poor quality red meats, that have undergone processing, in conjunction with a poor diet (and often higher incidence of smoking) increase our risk of HD. I could have told you that without the study!


Red Meat, Or White?


Scientific study, whilst truly wonderful for many reasons, has to be viewed with a critical eye. Uncontrolled variables can mean the difference between telling us everything we needed to know, or nothing at all. To date, no study has been published (and almost certainly never will) that shows us the result of eating only high-quality cuts of red meat in conjunction with a healthy diet. My opinion here is this… We are still essentially hunter-gatherers, evolutionarily speaking. If a study reveals that something we have done for millions of years to evolve is inherently bad for us, there is probably something not quite right with the study.


Remember when everyone was terrified of being out in the sun without special cream to protect us from it? Now we all take vitamin D pills if we can’t get in it enough.


Great quality, organic / free-range red meat (that has not been dosed with antibiotics or fed strange feed from the lot at an industrial farm), eaten with plenty of vegetables and free of preservatives, pesticides, herbicides and sulphites will not give you or I heart disease. Ever. In fact, it will boost our fat loss potential through the various nutrients found within that aren’t present in the same quantities in other foods.


Thanks for reading!

Take a look at our related post:

“Low-Fat Diets & Fat Loss” > LINK



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