Friday, March 16, 2012

Poking Holes Through The New Harvard "Red Meat Is Bad For You" Study

By Miami Beach Chiropractor | Chiropractic Sports Medicine Specialist: Dr. Todd Narson

"Beef is beef and carrots are carrots, right? Wrong grasshopper.  Whether your food is animal, vegetable, plant, fish, or fruit, where a food comes from, how it's raised (or grown), what it ate (or was fed), what soil it was grown on (or grazed on), how it is processed, prepared, and cooked (or not cooked) is vitally important to its nutritional content and absolutely central to its effect on your health".

 Jonny Bowden, PhD
This is one of my favorite quotes on food.  It's from Johnny Bowden, PhD, CNS and can be found on page 196 of his book The 150 Healthiest Foods On Earth.  It's a quote I use when I do nutrition lectures and workshops. It's something I ask people to re-read and really think about.  The bottom line of what Dr. Bowden is trying to say is that it really does matter what kind of food your food eats.

Grain-fed beef and grass-fed beef have much different biochemical profiles. With exception of the past 60 years, homosapiens (that's us) have been eating naturally raised animal protein that made up about 50% of our caloric intake. This includes naturally grazing cattle, chickens and other poultry pecking away in the fields for bugs, worms, seeds, larvae, wild fish and other wild game.  The other 50% of our diets consisted of huge amounts of plant food (fruit, veggies, nuts and seeds).

But all these foods ate what I like to call their "natural evolutionary diet".  Others refer to it as their ancestral diet.  Think of it this way. Everyone knows that if we eat badly, we get sick. Whether it's cancer, diabetes, heart disease or some other malady, eat bad and bad stuff happens to our physiology. The same holds true for the animals and plants that we eat.

Grass fed beef is higher in ALL nutritional categories that it's biochemically altered cousin.  Eating grains significantly alters their fatty acid composition (you've heard of Omega-3, Omega-6 & Omega-9 fatty acids???).  When cattle eat grass, it enhances their Omega-3 content by 60%.  There is an incredible amount of research that shows Omega-3 reduces inflammation and helps prevent certain chronic diseases such as heart disease.  As a matter fact, some authors have even suggested that the inflammation at the cellular level is responsible for the genesis of disease itself.

Our caveman ancestors' diet consisted of somewhere between 1-to-1 and 4-to-1 ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3. The Standard American Diet (let's call it SAD for short) is estimated at 25-to-1 omega 6 to omega 3.  It's this imbalance in fatty acids that puts us in a disease state and gets us sick. Why? Because Omega fatty acid balance is crucial to your body's ability to fight inflammation. If inflammation at the cellular level is thought to be responsible for the genesis of disease, the anything that throws off your omega fatty acid balance it a big problem.

Grassfed cows also produce another gem of a nutrient called CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid). CLA has long investigated for its anticancer & tumor fighting activity and it's ability to reduce the accumulation of fat around the abdomen.  CLA comes from the meat and milk of grass-fed cows.

Grain fed beef(they only know it as "beef"), the kind used in the Harvard study has only 1/4 of the amount of vitamin-E as a grass-fed cow. It has 1/8 as much beta-carotene as a grass-fed cow.  Grain-fed cows have only 1/3 the amount of omega fatty acids that grass-fed cows have and the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 and as a result of their grain-fed diet, produce far too much of the pro-inflammatory omega-6 and much less of the anti-inflammatory omega-3.   As I noted above, the Standard America Diet (SAD) is already tilted 25:1 in the wrong direction, eating grain-fed beef pushed it even further in the wrong direction. Where there's more inflammation, there's more disease.  When you feed a cow grain, the production of CLA drastically drops. As Dr. Bowden reports "in animal studies, as little as 0.5 of 1% CLA in the diet has reduced tumor burden by more than 50%.

We could go further and look into life-style and other factors as well.  But when talking about beef...beef simply isn't just beef.  While I'm on the subject, you should know there are people trying to trick you with organic and grass-fed terms as well. So, let me clear it up now.

Organic beef simply means that the feed the cattle ate was organic. If they're fed organic grains, then the cow is "organically unhealthy".  If it is an organic pasture where the cows eat their grass, then that's the healthiest.

When I look for beef, I ask a couple questions:

1. Is the beef grass-fed or grain fed
2. Is the beef grass-fed and grass finished?

Ultimately, you want to eat the beef from a cow that's eating grass all it's life. Be careful of beef farmers that raise their cattle on grain and finish them for 1-3 months on grass, or do the opposite. I've seen and heard of both.  Bottom line, grain gets cows sick. If you want to get sick, eat beef from a sick cow.

So, it's not to far fetched to think that people that ate a lot of conventionally raised beef that ate grain all their life had an ill effect on their life; reducing both quality and longevity.  But just like cows didn't evolve to eat grain, we didn't evolve to eat grain-fed cows.  For 13 years I didn't eat beef.  Then after I started studying nutrition I learned of the big biochemical differences between conventional beef and grass-fed beef. I had a food epiphany and then in 2009 I took my first bite again and haven't looked back.  I don't eat it every day, but once per week. I rotate my sources of animal protein throughout the week, including free range chicken, turkey, lamb and wild fish.  I eat lots of veggies and start off most of my days with fruit, some days with farm fresh free range eggs.  When you eat outside of the evolutionary diet that humans evolved over millions of years eating, we get sick, diseased and die early.

Why do I know humans are supposed to eat meat? Because if were were solely vegans, we would not have survived evolution. Why do I know humans are supposed to eat veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds? Because in the context of evolution, it was our ability to eat both animals, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds that ensured our survival through evolution. We are omnivores.

Oh, and to those vegans that point to the gorilla or elephant and say "look how big and strong they are and they only eat plants"... I say, that's because they have a different physiology than we do and their system processes foods differently. Sorry, that's just the way it is-even if you don't like it. That being said, I do believe it is possible, with supplementation and things like nutritional yeast, to be a healthy and successful vegan.  My personal beliefs based on my studying is that we are truly omnivores and the best thing for us is a dietary mix of plants and animal.

Finally I'll finish with this...Remember in the 50's they came out with artificial fats called margarine and said to replace your butter with this new stuff called margarine (aka: Trans Fat).  The government and all their food scientists jumped on board and came up with the original USDA food pyramid. Well, they caused more heart disease and death because of their "science" than any other diet recommendation known to man.   Remember, you have to make sure the science is real and it makes sense.  Just because a study says one thing doesn't necessarily mean it's true.

You have to figure out why they got the answers they got and see if it makes sense.

Now, go fire up the grill and slap on a nice lifelong grass-fed steak.  Just makes sure the veggies on your plate take up 2/3 of the plate and the meat only 1/3.

To find out more about my nutrition program and workshop, visit: 

If you want to get some good, healthy beef (and other meats) that are raised and fed in line with their natural evolutionary diet, I recommend the following:

US Wellness Meats -
Florida Fresh Meat Co. -

And if you live in Miami, FL want to get your natural meats along with great produce, farm fresh eggs from free range hens go visit my friend Cindy Hill at The Wholesome Grocer:

'nuff said.

Dr. T

Dr. Narson is a 2-term past president of the Florida Chiropractic Association’s Council on Sports Injuries, Physical Fitness & Rehabilitation and was honored as the recipient of the coveted Chiropractic Sports Physician of the Year Award in 1999-2000. He practices in Miami Beach, Florida at the Miami Beach Family & Sports Chiropractic Center; A Facility for Natural Sports Medicine.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well said! It is also disconcerting that this 28 year 'scientific' study based nearly all of its conclusions on a food survey filled out every four years in detail. I am sorry, but I doubt that as being empirical evidence of the kind of proof everyone is so excited about.