Owen Davis | 18 Feb '20
Throughout our thirty years of nutrition and body chemistry consulting, we are repeatedly asked the same question, ‘Is red meat bad for
The short answer is no, red meat is not bad for you. In fact, it’s good for you!
That’s right. This notion that red meat is bad for you is actually scientifically incorrect. The vilification of red meat has everything to
do with public discourse, and nothing to do with science. The problem with socio-political agendas, tribal diets, protests and campaigns
against meat, is that they fail to address the science behind meat consumption. Just because science may contradict popular opinion or what
is fashionable in public sentiment, doesn’t render that science is untrue. In the case of red meat consumption, science is evident in body
chemistry, anatomy, physiology and anthropology.
Instead, emotion still continues to fuel epidemiological studies. Epidemiology is the study of association, not cause and effect. We have
noticed, when a client becomes anaemic with a poor protein / iron status, cognitive dissonance occurs with respect to red meat
Cognitive dissonance is: “the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially relating to behavioural decisions and
attitude to change, in order to achieve a desired health goal”. To understand why red meat is good for you, we have to understand quite a
few fundamental scientific points, while leaving emotion aside.
First, we must understand that there are fundamental differences between the protein found in meat versus the protein found in plants, lentils and nuts. Animal proteins are ‘complete’, whereas plant proteins are not. What does this mean? Well, there are around 20 amino acids the body uses to build proteins. Some of these amino acids are ‘essential’ and others are ‘non- essential’. The body can produce non-essential amino acids, however, cannot produce essential amino acids. Essential amino acids need to be consumed through diet. Animal proteins contain all of the essential amino acids the body needs, thus why they are referred to as a complete protein source.
To understand this further, it is important to also know that animal and vegetable proteins look a like on a piece of paper, where both are
represented by carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen, but there is still a difference of structure. Perhaps the best way to contextualise
the differences between animal and plant protein is that animal proteins are three-dimensional, whereas plant proteins are only
two-dimensional. Three-dimensional proteins speak the body's language for building connective tissue (e.g. bone and muscle) whereas, plant
proteins do this poorly. This is evident in body chemistry analysis wherein plant protein does not seem to affect positive changes in blood
chemistry. These markers are called Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN), Total Protein, Albumin, Phosphate and Globulin. These critical makers are
very important to balance in the initial stages of chemistry, as we have observed over three decades of health coaching, that clients who
abstain or reduce red meat intake will struggle to make repairs and heal in the instance of chronic infection, illness or toxic exposure. It
becomes very difficult to restore health unless their protein and iron status improves.
Another key difference between animal and plant proteins is that red meat contains a bio-available source of iron called Haem iron, whereas
plant proteins do not. Haem iron is critical for fuelling the mitochondria (the engine of the cell). Haem iron is also critical for
detoxification (cytochrome P450 system).
Even if we were to disregard the above - ignoring these fundamental differences between plant and animal protein - and make the case that
you can derive sufficient protein from a plant based diet, consider the following. Yes, you could consume adequate protein from following a
plant based diet, however a plant based diet contains more carbohydrates than protein. Therefore, it is inescapable that vegetarians and
vegans over-eat carbohydrates in their quest for protein - which may lead to excessive glucose and insulin spikes. These metabolic events
ultimately cause acidity, inflammation, connective tissue breakdown and anaerobic tendency. These biological trends - all of which are part
of the six subclinical
defects that underpin all disease
- encouraging infection and setting the scene for disease.
Since it has been observed over more than three decades of coaching clients on low red meat diets or plant only based diets as soon as their body has a challenge from a chronic dental infection or illness or toxin it becomes near impossible to restore health unless their protein and iron status improves.
This brings us to the next point.
Plant based diets are high in carbohydrates. Following the consumption of a carbohydrate-rich meal, the body will break down carbohydrates into a substance called glucose. As glucose rises, this signals the pancreas to secrete a hormone called insulin. Insulin controls the amount of glucose in our bodies before it reaches heights that are dangerous to us. The body uses some of this glucose for metabolic energy. What’s left over gets transported in small amounts to the liver and muscular tissue. The larger part that was not needed for energy is directly transformed into adipose tissue (or fat) in our body. This is the process of weight gain.
A diet that is high in carbohydrates and devoid of (complete) animal protein, inevitably results in persistently heightened glucose and
insulin. Glucose behaves as sugar - forming a sweet, acidic environment in the body. Such a state encourages the growth and multiplication
of microbes, eventually causing infection. Once this happens, the body will elicit first line defence mechanisms to fight this - namely,
inflammation - which brings us to our next point.
Meat is often vilified for being pro-inflammatory due to its arachidonic acid content. However, studies have failed to verify significantly pro-inflammatory responses from dietary intake. In fact, it has been shown that arachidonic acid eventually reduces overall inflammation as seen by observation of major pro-inflammatory cytokines, chemokines and other blood markers.
Meat, as a complete protein source, actually offers defence against inflammation and infection by way of immune building. Protein provides
the biological tools required to create lymphocytes and antibodies. These, among other white blood cells are crucial for handling a toxin,
bacterial threats and anything else that may induce an immune reaction such as inflammation. Protein measured in chemistry, in the form of
Albumin and Phosphate, act as an ‘acid sponge’ which actually reduces the harmful incidence of uncontrolled, chronic inflammation.
A vegetarian or vegan diet consists predominately of carbohydrates. Without the presence of quality and sufficient quantity protein, those
who follow these poorly formulated diets, inevitably become acidic and more prone to infection, which brings on inflammation. The long-term
absence of protein can set the stage for uncontrolled, chronic inflammation, which can lead to any number of disorders. We will now explore
the discussion on the link between red meat and disease.
Meat and disease are linked. That is; if you fail to eat it, you stand to increase the likelihood of its onset. But what about the studies linking meat and disease?
Well, these studies are largely concerned with processed meats - probably because processed meats contain things like sugar and processed
vegetable oils. As of yet, no correlation exists between unprocessed meat and disease.
Also, of importance to this argument are the methods by which data is collected. Usually, data is gathered via a retrospective questionnaire
where participants answer what they have consumed. The problem with this sort of data collection is that it can be biased , inaccurate and
not all variables are considered, such as dentistry, toxins and pre-existing conditions.
If we are looking for correlations between meat and disease, the best place to start would be looking at the undeniable correlation between iron deficiency and those following plant based diets like vegan and vegetarian. And let’s not forgot that iron deficiency is a major trigger for the onset of all six subclinical defects. Leading to oxygen depletion, fatigue and finally sugar cravings in the form of juices, caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, grains and refined carbohydrates.
The pathology of cancer involves the uncontrollable multiplication of cells in certain areas of the body. The primary fuel for tumours and cancerous cells is glucose. In oncology, if a client is suspected to have cancer, a positron-emission tomography or PET scan is requested. The night before the client is told to abstain from carbohydrate intake and the day after, a radioactive analogue of glucose tracer- fluorodeoxyglucose is injected to entice the cancer site. Not red meat, but glucose.
Glucose comes from the breakdown of carbohydrates.
When a person routinely takes in a largely carbohydrate-based diet, connective tissue breakdown follows (cachexia). Given the right environment, cancer cells thrive and proliferate. Current research has revisited Nobel Prize winner Otto Warburg's hypothesis. Apart from the hormone and gene theory, environmental plays are now being considered:
Glucose is the body’s blood sugar. Blood sugar is produced from carbohydrates. When we consume lots of these, we see high levels of fasting
glucose with even higher amounts of insulin. Insulin is made to protect us from the damaging effects of glucose. Elevated glucose and
insulin have close correlation with many diseases, including cancer.
High blood sugar causes a drop in pH. This forces the body into an acidic state. Prolonged acidity inhibits oxygenation, which causes cells to function anaerobically (without oxygen). Together these factors set the scene for disease, increasing the likelihood of infection. Cells begin to favour the use of glucose for energy production, generating lactic acid in the cytosol. This anaerobic activity is where cells start behaving abnormally. These are the biological origins of cancer, not the consumption of meat.
The idea that meat rots in the bowel causing intestinal filth and degeneration is a fallacy perpetuated by the media, self proclaimed gurus on social media and popular culture. Animal meats are in fact digested by the stimulation of bile, protease enzymes and hydrochloric acid. Essential amino acids become the end product of meat consumption, which are required in nearly every digestive, hormonal, immune, metabolic and enzymatic process.
Meat consumption requires protease enzyme activity, bile production and hydrochloric acid secretion. It gives a slow release of energy,
keeping blood sugar levels stable. When a person refrains from consuming animal products, the liver slows making bile. Eventually fewer
protease enzymes are stimulated and less hydrochloric acid is produced. People become accustomed to assimilating sugar from the
carbohydrates they consume. Therefore, their digestive organs become lazy and fail to produce the required functions to break
down meat efficiently. At this stage, people often report a ‘heavy’ sensation in the stomach and/or being ‘blocked up.’
Additionally, excessive carbohydrate intake feeds gram-negative bacteria in the bowel. The end products from carbohydrates often end up
fermenting in the colon. This causes bloating, burping, gas, cramping, reflux, anal itch and hasty bowel motions. This eventually destroys
the mucosal lining and reduces overall digestive integrity. Bowel movements produced from eating fibre-rich carbohydrate-dense foods happen
due to colonic irritation, rather than activation of proper digestive mechanisms resulting in a natural elimination.
Through PCR testing (polymerase chain reaction - DNA) of bowel polyps you can find a bug called fusobacterium nucleatum ss vicente. Scientists have now found a link with colorectal cancer. This bug can also be found in chronically infected teeth.
Food for thought, research should explore the link between diet, dentistry and the bowel. Lets say we are still animals and veterinary
scientists know, when an animal is declining in health, the first thing that should be observed is the mouth.
When meat is consumed, hydrochloric acid and protease enzymes are stimulated which hydrolyses protein to free the amino acids. Hydrochloric
acid is secreted by the parietal cells of the gastric mucosa, denaturing proteins further while disarming micro-organisms. Bile is produced
which aids bowel regularity, keeping bad bacteria at bay and escorting many toxins out via the intestines. The biggest excretion route for
fat soluble toxins and heavy metals like mercury is through biliary excretion.
When a person stops eating meat, their bodies fail to make enough bile and stomach acid to digest proteins and emulsify fats. Protease
enzyme activity decreases due to lack of necessity. If exposed to meat once more, vegetarians and people who fail to have the correct amount
of protein for their needs in their diet often complain of discomfort due to compromised digestive ability. This process may take a long
time to correct.
Deprivation of animal protein inevitably leads to poorer digestion, not only of meat but of all foods in general and a loss of
gastrointestinal integrity . The adverse effects of copious carbohydrate consumption actually bring about more intestinal problems due to
the events discussed prior. Therefore, plant based diets create their own difficulties due to the abstinence of a major fundamental food
group: quality protein.
The keys to health lie not in abstaining from meat, and removing it from the diet. A well formulated diet featuring both red meat and plants is key to longterm health. Anthropology supports this idea - we’ve seen it over and over again - as soon as someone moves away from their ancestral eating plan, their health deteriorates. It’s all about finding the right balance.
And as for what this balance is, only your blood chemistry will know. Only by adopting health model thinking and developing a strategy to get well and stay well, will you achieve health.