Red meat has had some bad press lately. It’s likely your doctor, tv programme or a passing vegan has provided some helpful insights into how it causes cancer and how the human race will not-so-slowly die out due to our ravenous and insatiable appetite for steak.
So, what do we do with all this dubious information? Is there truth in it or are we looking at another case of ‘eggs will eventually kill you’ or ‘fat causes cancer’.
Setting the precedent
This article is about red meat and it‘s impact on our health, not about sustainability or the morality of eating it. I understand this can be a primary driver for some in cutting it out of their lives but I think it’s important to remove that side whilst we break down the more fundamental argument - is it safe and healthy to eat.
Why are we being told to eat less red meat?
Well, a division of the world health organisation called IARC published a paper stating that the higher the rate of red meat consumption, the greater the risk of cancer (colonrectal), diabetes and heart disease. This was based on findings from ’multiple’ epidemiological studies. There’s our first red flag - ‘epidemiology‘ is considered one of the weakest forms of scientific study. As we pointed out earlier, similar studies have been wholly wrong and we have been forced to reverse health guidance around egg consumption, fat causing cancer, anti-oxidant vitamins and hormone replacement therapy.
These studies show association NOT causation, and the association is weak at best. (1.17% increase of cancer)
Saturated fat and Cholesterol
It is still considered amongst mainstream medicine and nutrition that saturated fat is bad fat, and that red meat was associated with increased bad cholesterol (LDL).
So let’s put that to bed shall we.
This association is based on the “diet heart hypothesis”, and has been tested on more than 75,000 men and women in multiple experiments from 1 to 12 years.
The results were that there was NO EFFECT of saturated fats on cardiovascular disease or total mortality.
So what’s left?
Studies have shown that people who eat more red meat are also more likely to be overweight, exercise less, smoke, drink more alcohol and are lower educated. (not the better educated, healthier readers of these articles of course :)
Oh and one last thing - epidemiology relies on self reported data. I.e. questionnaires. “How many of us tell the truth on these? That’s if we bother to fill them out”
Ok, we’ve identified that the research is flawed, but of course, there could still be truth in it couldn’t there?
No - there is no strong evidence (randomised control tests) that eating red meat is bad for our health.
Red meat and Diabetes
The above news is great for anyone who enjoys eating red meat. But what about us poor wee diabetics with our broken pancreases?
As you’ve already guessed, there’s no difference but we do have more to think about (obviously). What’s there to think about you may ask - I want that steak now.
Bolus - or rapid-acting insulin.
Insulin dependent diabetics need to cover protein with rapid-acting insulin, so this isn’t really a ‘red meat only‘ kind of thing - more a ‘protein will increase your blood sugars but differently to carbohydrates’ kind of thing.
We’ll go through this in more detail in another article but the general rule of thumb is to bolus what you’d usually inject for 6 grams of slow-acting carbs for 10 grams of protein - or small extended boluses of insulin to cover the gradual rise in blood sugars that protein produces.
To be honest that’s it - unless your eating red meat between two giant burger buns or with an enormous plate of pasta, there’s not much to worry about. Diabetics need the same nutrient rich foods that non-diabetics require. We’re no different in our nutritional needs, we just feel the effects sooner if we’re not following a healthy diet.
Red meat is a high source of protein, an essential macronutrient and building block for our body.
It also contains a natural source of Vitamin B12, which helps make DNA and helps keep nerve and red blood cells healthy (I learnt this when my wife was advised to take it during chemotherapy, as she started to get neuropathy). B12 is found naturally in animal products, not plant foods. You can get it via fortified cereals but that would mean you’d have to eat cereal. Red meat is also a great source of zinc which is vital for our immune system.
Red meat is one of the most nutrient rich foods we can have. In just a 3-ounce serving, you’re getting 10 essential nutrients (unlike carbohydrates).
On another - slightly innocuous note; Spain is the second highest consumer of red meat in Europe - oh and they live longer than any other people on the planet. As the picture above denotes, the diet is rich in meat and saturated fat, which is ironic considering the Mediterranean diet is renowned for being the healthiest diet in the world, and is promoted for it’s weight loss and overall health benefits.
Us humans have done a great job at manipulating and distorting food. We have a strong tendency to look at what promotes the greatest profit margin, then make the rest up to sound like it benefits us.
At it’s very core, we must see food at its most basic, whole and unprocessed. We don’t need guidance from biased, ideological activists to tell us what is good for our health, because we’ve been eating it for hundreds of thousands of years, and evolution is the strongest evidence we have.
Believe the hypo