by Catherine Ebeling, RN BSN
April 5, 2009
Front Page Lies?
It was front-page news last week. In the Los Angeles times the headline read, "Killer Meat". It was the ..."Largest study of its kind finds that older Americans who eat large amounts of red meat and processed meats face a greater risk of death from heart disease and cancer."
The study in a nutshell went like this:
Calling the increased risk modest, lead author Rashmi Sinha of the National Cancer Institute said the findings support the advice of several health groups to limit red and processed meat intake to decrease cancer risk.
The findings appeared in Monday's Archives of Internal Medicine.
The study goes on to state that over 10 years, eating the equivalent of a quarter-pound hamburger daily gave men in the study a 22 percent higher risk of dying of cancer and a 27 percent higher risk of dying of heart disease. That's compared to those who ate the least red meat, just 5 ounces per week.
Women who ate large amounts of red meat had a 20 percent higher risk of dying of cancer and a 50 percent higher risk of dying of heart disease than women who ate less.
For processed meats, the increased risks for large quantities were slightly lower overall than for red meat. The researchers compared deaths in the people with the highest intakes to deaths in people with the lowest to calculate the increased risk.
The researchers surveyed more than 545,000 people, ages 50 to 71 years old, on their eating habits, then followed them for 10 years. There were more than 70,000 deaths during that time.
Once again we have a media conspiracy and biased reporting, but it is taken as absolute truth by the general public who believe the media and the stories they put out.
At the same time that this paper appeared, showing increased red meat consumption to be tied to a slight increased risk of death (and showing that those subjects eating white meat had less risk), a couple of other papers came out in the online pre-publication section of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN), one of the world's most prestigious nutritional scientific journals.
These two AJCN papers came about at the same time as this highly publicized study on meat and mortality, but demonstrated the opposite results. They got no press coverage whatsoever. It seems clear that the press is biased against red meat.
Knowing this, careful readers should take the negative stories the media reports about red meat with an enormous grain of salt.
Another study in the advanced online section of AJCN titled "Mortality in British Vegetarians" results from the European Prospective Investigation in Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC-Oxford) shows that things are not always as they seem. Yet we have heard nothing of this study in the press. Most people would answer the question of whether vegetarians or non-vegetarians are healthier with vegetarians being the healthiest. One would think that if a study came out from (Oxford) published in a mainstream scientific journal showing that vegetarians don't live any longer than non-vegetarians and actually have a higher incidence of colorectal and other nasty cancers it would be newsworthy. But this story too, has been totally ignored in the media. There are several flaws to the recent red meat study...
We all know that eating processed meat full of additives, preservatives, and heavy-duty chemicals like nitrates and nitrites is harmful and will contribute to a higher rate of cancer. So why was this included in the study with regular red meat?
The other flaw in the study was that they did not differentiate between commercially raised, grain fed beef pumped full of hormones, antibiotics and harmful fats and grass-fed organically and naturally raised beef high in cancer fighting CLA's and omega 3's . There is a HUGE difference, in fact it is like night and day.
How can it be that our ancestors ate naturally raised beef and lived long and healthy lives, cancer free? Surely there must be more in the mix than just the excessive red meat and processed meats.
Some things to think about with a study like this:
The groups that ate the most red meat and processed meats also had the highest smoking rates, although the researchers did their best to factor smoking out of the final statistics.
The groups with the least red meat consumption also ate the most fiber, fruits and vegetables, which we know are good for your health, irrespective of whether you eat red meat or not. White meat consumption also included fish, which is higher in omega-3 fatty acids, a cancer fighting and heart healthy nutrient.
If the researchers are right, they could be underestimating things, because the general population of the US eats worse than the members of this study group.
What he did not point out is that the study did not even attempt to differentiate between factory meat and grass-fed meat.
This is a crucial difference, as there is much evidence that growth hormones and preservatives such as nitrates can cause cancer, and other diseases. It is well known that nitrates and nitrites commonly used in processed meats can cause cancer. If people eating red meat in the study died sooner, it was not from the meat, it was from the poisons added to the meat.
Causes of death for those in the study included diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, ulcers, pneumonia, influenza, liver disease, HIV, tuberculosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and more.
The study failed to look at fiber consumption, such as fruit and vegetables, which can have a big impact on cancer rates.
"Meat is an excellent source of zinc, iron, B-12 and other essential vitamins and minerals. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines say to eat a balanced diet that includes lean meat. In this way, you derive a wide array of nutrients from many different sources. It's the best return on a nutritional investment you can get.
The biggest issue I can see is that the study did not differentiate between grass-fed beef and commercially raised, hormone and additive loaded beef. There is a world of difference and the press treats all red meat as the same, which is so far from the truth. Unfortunately for grass-fed beef and all the health benefits it has, also gets a bad rap as well.
The solution is simple:
Eat only grass-fed and grass finished meats, and avoid processed meat with nitrates or other preservatives. Unlike commercially raised beef, grass-fed meat is loaded with cancer-preventing nutrients such as omega-3s, conjugated linoleic acid, and vitamin E.
Meat from grass-fed animals has two to four times more omega-3 fatty acids than meat from grain-fed animals. Omega-3s play a vital role in every cell and system in your body. Of all the fats, they are the most heart-friendly and cancer fighting. People who have ample amounts of omega-3s in their diet are less likely to have high blood pressure or an irregular heartbeat, among other things.
Amazingly, they are also 50 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack. Omega-3s are essential for the brain, mood, and emotional well being as well. People eating a diet rich in omega-3s are less likely to suffer from depression, schizophrenia, attention deficit disorder, or Alzheimer's disease.
Another benefit of omega-3s is that they may significantly reduce your risk of cancer. In animal studies, these essential fats have slowed the growth of a wide array of cancers and also kept them from spreading.
Clearly grass-fed meat is NOTHING like commercially raised beef.
Although omega-3s are abundant in seafood and certain nuts they are also found in grass-fed meats in a big way. The reason is simple. Omega-3s are formed in the chloroplasts of green leaves and algae. Sixty percent of the fatty acids in grass are omega-3s. When cattle are taken off omega-3 rich grass and shipped to the feedlot to be fattened on grain, they begin losing their supply of this highly beneficial fat. Each day that an animal spends in the feedlot, its supply of omega-3s is diminished.
It has been estimated that only 40 percent of Americans consume an adequate supply of omega-3 fatty acids. Twenty percent have blood levels so low that they cannot be detected.
Perhaps this fact alone could be a factor in this most recent study.
Conjugated Linoleic Acid is another vital part of this puzzle. Meat and dairy products from grass-fed ruminants are the richest known source of this type of fat. When cattle are raised on fresh pasture alone, their products contain from three to five times more CLA than products from animals fed conventional diets. (A steak from the most marbled grass-fed animals will have the most CLA, as much of the CLA is stored in fat cells.)
CLA may be one of our most potent defenses against cancer.
In laboratory animals, a very small percentage of CLA-a mere 0.1 percent of total calories-greatly reduced tumor growth. There is new evidence that CLA reduces cancer risk in humans. In a Finnish study, women who had the highest levels of CLA in their diet had a 60 percent lower risk of breast cancer than those with the lowest levels. Switching from grain-fed to grass-fed meat and dairy products places women in this lowest risk category.
The most natural and effective way to increase your intake of CLA is to eat the meat and dairy products of grass-fed animals. Researcher Tilak Dhiman from Utah State University estimates that you may be able to lower your risk of cancer simply by eating the following grass-fed products each day: one to two ounces of raw dairy cheese, and two servings of meat. You would have to eat five times that amount of grain-fed meat and dairy products to get the same level of protection. And in doing so, you increase the harmful components of these commercially raised foods.
In addition to being higher in omega-3s and CLA, meat from grass-fed animals is also higher in vitamin E.
The meat from the pastured cattle is four times higher in vitamin E than the meat from the feedlot cattle and, interestingly, almost twice as high as the meat from the feedlot cattle-even if they are given vitamin E supplements.
In humans, vitamin E is linked with a lower risk of heart disease and cancer. This potent antioxidant may also have anti-aging properties. Again, most Americans are deficient in vitamin E, so we see another link to this latest faulty study. If Americans on the typical Standard American Diet (SAD) are deficient in Vitamin E, then it raises their risk of life-threatening diseases. Nature has given us a healthier alternative to weight control-eat meat from animals raised on fresh pasture. Meat from grass-fed animals has about half the fat as meat from grain fed animals and significantly fewer calories. It also gives you a bonus supply of vitamins E, A, D, and beta-carotene.
The point is don't get excited by studies reported through the mass media. Studies like this are clearly biased and the media reports on what it wants to report. Obviously we don't get the whole truth or even much of any truth. Studies like this have many flaws and are done to get the outcome that is desired. Educate yourself on the best foods and you will be miles ahead of those who read the news for nutrition information.
As a journalist once remarked: what is news? News is whatever the reporter decides it is. In my opinion, they decided wrongly in this case.
Eades, Michael, M.D., The Blog of Michael Eades,
Johnson, Karla P., AP Medical Writer, CHICAGO