Friday, March 23, 2012

Red Meat in the Cross-Hairs - Again

There’s new research out as reported in the L.A. Times, claiming that red meat consumption is associated with a 13% increase in premature death.  Not junk food, not sugar, not soda pop or beer or potato chips, just red meat. What the reporter (and the average reader) neglects to consider is the word “associated,” for in truth there is no cause and effect conclusion by the research. It's what is called an observational study, people filled out a questionnaire every four years telling the researchers what they ate, but no risk factors were isolated to determine if red meat really “caused” anything. 

More disturbing is that red meat eaters were more likely to lead sedentary lives, be smokers, drinkers and have a higher body mass index. So . . .   let’s see, it was the red meat that did it? Not the waistline, the cigarettes, the alcohol or the lack of exercise? Perhaps these slackers ignore their health overall. Maybe they ignore the warning on cigarettes and stupid red meat studies as well. Perhaps red meat, as healthy as it is, can’t overcome their other poor lifestyle choices?

The timing was perfect on this article, as I had just finished a fascinating book by Gary Taubes, Why We Get Fat and What to do About it. Taubes is a science trained journalist who has reviewed tons of nutritional studies and debunks the “fat makes fat” premise. He says it’s all about carbohydrates and how they direct the body to store fat. Since obesity is increasingly blamed for everything from diabetes to alzheimers, shouldn’t our focus be on carbs? Additionally, the major black eye for red meat has been the belief that it causes heart disease. Even this, according to Taubes, has never been confirmed in study after study.    

Sadly, the research garnered worldwide attention and furthered the breathtaking agenda of those determined to vilify meat. Today I’ve been perusing the internet, reading comments from mothers wondering what to feed their kids since hamburgers are off limits. What these Moms don't recognize is that beef is truly unbeatable for what it offers a body – protein, zinc, B vitamins, selenium, iron, phosphorous, etc. Even highly celebrated fruits and vegetables don't compare well with the nutritional components of beef. And even worse, as folks try to find an alternative to meat, they often replace it with carbohydrates - rice, pasta, potatoes, white bread, etc.

After stewing about the study for a few days, I went to Taubes’s website and found his apt rebuttal to the study. And by following comments from his readers, I found a whole underground of fitness experts, medical professionals, researchers, and paleo diet followers who echo his claims. 

As an aside - now stay with me on this - how much do you know about the diet of songbirds? On a different day, on a different internet rabbit trail, I was researching what we could do around the farmstead to provide for songbirds. What struck me was their diet. Birds eat insects while nesting because they need lots of protein and fat for developing baby birds and to fuel endurance for foraging. And here’s what really caught my eye - they change their diet to grains and fruits in late summer to lay on fat for the coming migratory journey.  Oh really!

1 comment: