Fat Loss Biology Announcement
Banning Meat

Dr. Oz continues to parrot the dietary recommendations of the American Heart Association in spite of contradictory research showing that it is lousy advice. Eating less meat cuts down on saturated fat consumption, which is supposedly harmful to your health. It isn’t. Here are some details that you should know before taking this advice from Dr. Oz or from the AHA.

Another ‘health’ article appeared in our local paper recently, with the latest dietary advice from Dr. Oz and his colleague, Dr. Roizen. It is a nationally syndicated column, so you may have already seen it. Please ignore most of the advice in it.

Every time I see this kind of claptrap in the paper or in magazines, especially from someone who commands so much public attention, I swear that I’m going to post a rebuttal to it. I finally couldn’t take it anymore, so here is what I’ve got to say.

AHA Recommendations

Here are the basic AHA recommendations in summary form, just so you know where Dr. Oz got them:

  • Choose fish, shellfish, poultry without the skin, and trimmed lean meats, no more than 6 ounces, cooked, per day.
  • Enjoy at least 2 servings of baked or grilled fish each week, especially oily fish.
  • Choose low-sodium, low-fat seasonings such as spices, herbs and other flavorings in cooking and at the table.
  • Select meat substitutes such as dried beans, peas, lentils or tofu (soybean curd) in entrees, salads or soups.

There is a lot to take in here. Some of the recommendations are fine. The issue that I want to address in this post entails the low amount of meat and the advice to go lean.

Recommended Daily Meat Intake Looks Like This:

Steaks and Decks of Playing Cards

This is what 6 ounces per day looks like, or more or less the size of two decks of playing cards. Moreover, the amount of fat in the AHA meat recommendations is about the same amount as you will find in a deck of playing cards. If you are up to eating meat that is dry as sawdust, with very little flavor, you can ignore the rest of this post and stick to what the AHA advises. Otherwise, read on.

Oz-Roizen Recommendations

Their key points are simply listed here, so I can keep this post somewhat brief. These are quotes taken from the Oz-Roizen column, in the order in which they appeared. My comments about them appear below this list.

  • Red meat (beef, as well as pork and other red types) is a big source of saturated fat, which can raise levels of heart-threatening LDL cholesterol, reduce your body’s ability to process blood glucose and increase your risk for diabetes, colon cancer and an earlier death.
  • New reports say that [meat] contributes to a buildup in the blood of a substance called TMAO that triggers bodywide inflammation and promotes heart disease…
  • Dr. Roizen also says to, …eliminate red meat from your diet completely; but if that’s not going to happen, aim for no more than one 3-ounce serving a week.

Recommended Weekly Meat Intake Looks Like This:

Steak with Deck of Playing Cards
That is 3 ounces per week, which should look more or less like the size of one deck of playing cards. (Not much, is it?)

They go on to add:

  • Choose lean cuts like eye round and bottom round…
  • Go for skinless, fat-trimmed chicken or turkey.

Oz-Roizen bottom line: reduce intake of saturated fat from red meat because it is the dietary culprit leading to heart disease of all kinds bad health outcomes.

(Unfortunately, this is not true!)

Truly Good Advice Would Have Been

Dr. Oz would have done a better service by saying something like this…

“As a cardio-thoracic surgeon, the only 100 percent association that I have seen in several thousand open-heart surgeries is rampant inflammation. An anti-inflammatory diet of no sugar, no refined carbohydrates, and especially no wheat products is the most important step that you can take for reducing inflammation that is caused by what you eat.”

A huge number of health problems would go away if people just followed that advice.

The (Weak) Knock on Red Meat

The idea that red meat and the saturated fat from it is dangerous for your health grew enormously as a result of dietary advice from a government committee (United States Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs, 1968-1977), led by George McGovern. The politics behind this advice has a fascinating history, which is explained in great detail by Gary Taubes in his book, Good Calories, Bad Calories.

The fact that politics, including politics in science, drove the dietary recommendations of this committee should be a gigantic red flag. Ultimately these recommendations were based on biased scientific testimony. I couldn’t do justice to this issue in a short blog post here, so I will direct you to Taubes’ book if you are really curious about how this story unfolded.

At this time there is not a single randomized control trial with evidence showing that eating unprocessed red meat is harmful to cardiovascular health. At best, observational studies show that eating processed meat (ground beef, cured meats, etc.) might be a culprit. Moreover, byproducts of grilling, frying, or other high-heat cooking of meat are potential sources of danger.

That is easy to fix by simply consuming only whole, unprocessed meats that are cooked slowly over low heat. You can even improve this approach if you prefer organic, grass-fed animal products, although they might break the bank.

There are so many weaknesses in the “eat less meat” camp that I will leave this aspect of the topic for a later discussion. Arguments one way or another will never end, especially if people like Dr. Oz keep muddying the waters with poor, thoughtless advice.

Instead, I am going to explore some of the positives of eating meat.

1. Saturated Fat is Not a Problem

From: Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 (91(3):535-46). Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease.

A meta-analysis means a comparison of the results of multiple studies investigating the same topic. In this case, 21 studies were reviewed to estimate the relative risks for coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke, and cardiovascular disease (CVD) in relation to saturated fat intake. In total, these studies entailed 5-23 years of follow-up of 347,747 subjects. The conclusion was that there is no significant evidence that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD.

2. No Inflammation from Red Meat

From: J Nutr. 2007 (137(2):363-7) Increased lean red meat intake does not elevate markers of oxidative stress and inflammation in humans.

In this study, an increased intake in unprocessed lean red meat, as a partial replacement of dietary carbohydrate, failed to elevate oxidative stress or inflammation as measured by several biochemical indicators.

[SIDE NOTE: I would like to have seen a comparison with fatty red meat, but researchers seem to be too afraid to include this variable.]

3. We Evolved to Eat Meat

The previous two points are supported by dietary research on modern humans. Such studies will always miss something; it is just not possible to account for all possible variables. We can study dietary patterns until the cows come home (sorry!) and never reach universal agreement.

One of the most interesting issues that has popped up in the public consciousness lately is the diet of our ancestors. This specifically refers to what we humans and our hominid relatives consumed before the advent of agriculture. The underlying concept is that we should be eating what we evolved to eat.

This approach engenders all kinds of new arguments, especially since we have no ancestral humans around to see what they are eating. Nevertheless, this has not prevented the rise of the ‘paleo diet’ crowd from telling us what prehistoric humans ate. Some of this commentary is based on logic and some of it is based on data. The best overview of these developments is probably the book by Loren Cordain, The Paleo Diet.

‘Paleo’ is short for paleolithic, which is a geological era that spans the period between 2.6 million years ago and 10,000 years ago. Many types of pre-human hominids evolved during this era. Most recently, humans did, too. Estimates for the arrival of our species on the scene range from 200,000 to 400,000 years ago.

Now…what did all these folks eat? This is the core research specialty of Prof. Michael P. Richards of the Department of Human Evolution at he Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. What he has discovered is absolutely fascinating and at least a little surprising.

His data are based on comparisons of ratios of stable isotopes of nitrogen. Of course, that probably sounds like a lot of scientific mumbo-jumbo to non-scientists. However exciting the details of this type of work are to me, I am sure they would bore 99 percent of my readers to distraction. Suffice it to say for the moment that the data that Prof. Richards has acquired indicate what the main sources of food were for us, for our ancestors, and for other animals.

Here are two particularly interesting sets of results that Prof. Richards has published from his research.

Neanderthal Diet by Michael P. Richards

The red asterisks mark the two Neanderthals (a type of pre-human). Did they eat meat? The answer is a resounding YES! In fact, this graph dramatically contrasts plant-eaters (bison, deer, ‘herbivore’) and meat-eaters (arctic fox, wolf, and two Neanderthal samples). The taller the bar, the higher on the meat-eating scale that sample came from. The two Neanderthals are highest on the scale.

MAIN POINT: Neanderthals ate meat at least to the same extent that typical carnivores did.

Now what about humans? Take a look at this second graph, which compares the main dietary intakes of a wild horse, an auroch (an extinct pre-cow), a red deer, and an arctic fox with those of 5 ‘caveman’ (paleolithic) samples.

Early Modern Human Diet by Michael P. Richards

Did early humans eat meat? The answer once again a resounding YES! All early human samples were from meat-eaters.

In fact, here is a little surprise: The early humans in this histogram (yellow bars) are even taller than that of the arctic fox. The arctic fox was a carnivore that typically ate meat from herbivores – i.e., it ate animals that ate plants. The early humans, however, also ate the meat of carnivores. This conclusion comes from noting that all of the yellow bars exceed the level of the arctic fox.

This means that we not only ate meat in prehistoric times, we ate meat from higher on the food chain. Paleolithic humans weren’t just carnivores. They were ‘top’ carnivores.

If you were to compare an equivalent diet in modern times, this means we would be eating the meat of other carnivores. Eating terrestrial carnivores would probably be out of the question, mostly for cultural reasons. Otherwise, we would be eating foxes, wolves, lions, tigers, etc., etc. Not too appealing, is it?

However, it could also mean eating marine carnivores, such as sharks and any fish that thrives mostly on eating other fish.

MAIN POINT: Early humans ate mostly meat, higher on the food chain than other common carnivores.

Main Points

  • Recommendations from Dr. Oz (and Dr. Roizen) to eat less meat is flat out bad advice.
  • Eating meat is not inflammatory and does not lead to all the health problems that the AHA (and Dr. Oz) claims it does.
  • Dietary fat is not the culprit behind bad health in any way, including saturated fat.
  • Humans evolved on a diet of meat.

Dr. Oz is also a big advocate for including whole grains in our diet. He means cereal grains, which became a main component of the human diet only after the advent of agriculture about 10,000 years ago. Although this is not directly related to the ‘eat less meat’ issue, it is abundantly clear that reducing meat intake and instead consuming whole grains from modern wheat is one of the worst dietary developments in human history. This requires more commentary than a single blog post can provide, so I will instead refer you to Dr. William Davis’ book, Wheat Belly, for a thorough treatment of this subject.

Missing Points

One of the missing points about paleo meat that is often overlooked is that early humans (and people in some current aboriginal cultures) ate a lot more of the animal than we do. They ate organs, eyes, bone marrow, and everything they could chew and swallow (except not so much the stomach and intestines). In fact, ‘meat’ as we think of it – i.e., striated muscle tissue (e.g., steaks, loins, ribs, etc.) – was the least preferable and the last part of an animal to be eaten. Organ meat, etc., contains a lot more fat, although it is primarily monounsaturated fat. If you were to follow an authentic paleo diet, this is what you would be eating most of the time. Lots and lots of fat! (Inuits still ate like this in the early 20th century; nary a whole grain or any other vegetable material whatsoever.)

The final missing point, which may be the most important one of all, has little or nothing to do with the ‘what to eat’ crowds. Yes, I clearly advocate eating meat. And I clearly advocate avoiding wheat and eating low-carb. However, most important of all, you absolutely must space your meals appropriately to reap the optimal benefits, and at the same time avoid the negative impacts, of whatever you eat.

By this I mean spacing meals 5-6 hours apart, never eating a late dinner or eating after dinner, and allowing 12-14 hours between dinner and your first meal of the following day. This also means intermittent fasting 1-3 times per week, up to 24 hours at a time. The older you get, the more important intermittent fasting is for a myriad of health issues – overweight, diabetes, heart and cardiovascular disease, hormone imbalances, high blood pressure – the entire Metabolic Syndrome and much more.

You can find plenty of research to support those comments. You can also see what I have to say about the science behind such seemingly wild claims, in my book, Fat Loss Biology (see the entire table of contents via that link). Take a look at it and see why the biology of fat metabolism underlies almost everything that you should know about eating right.

Oops…Dr. Oz is At It Again

It took me so long to research and write this post that Dr. Oz has come out with another of his and Dr. Roizen’s health advice columns in my local newspaper. Although the column was ostensibly about avoiding infections, which is always a good idea, they managed to slip this into the text:

“Cutting back on red meat…”

ARGH! This is dogma of mythical proportions, and it might never go away. Think about what you eat and why, based on good science, not bad advice that came out of an old government committee.

Thanks for getting this far in my tirade. I hope you have at, the very least, got some good food for thought here (sorry pun again!).

All the best in natural health,

Dr. D

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27 Comments so far »

  1. by Marguerite Holmes, PhD

     

    I love it! Also am enjoying the Fat book and sending it to people I think may be interested.
    I am very appreciative of your blog. I know enough to know that what you are saying is true, and it is nice to see it getting out there.

    greta

  2. by Stacey

     

    I am glad to hear some medical findings in favor of my favorite food (meat) for a change. If I have to cut down on carbs such as bread and rice and potatoes, I will gladly give up carbs and eat nothing but steak and salad. I also like to eat chicken, tuna, and for extra protein, I like to eat nuts and beans. I think that is a pretty good diet.

  3. by Janet

     

    I understand that the chemicals they feed the animals these days is not always good for the human to consume in their meat but I think we need meat in order to get the right amount of protein to sustain the muscle and things that we have. Back in the Biblical days after the New Testament was put into place they ate meat so I will continue to eat it as well.

  4. by Robert

     

    What kills me about things like this is the fact that our portion sizes are supposed to be so small. In today’s society everything is bigger and better or supersized and that is not what we need something the size of a deck of cards doesn’t look like much but it is plenty when you are talking about filling you up, we just have to learn to eat slower as well as smaller.

  5. by Robert

     

    I know what people say about eating red meat and how it is suppose to be bad for you but how do they explain the people that grew up with my grandpa (who still eats red meat at every meal and he is 94) who live to be in their nineties or better? I am afraid that I will continue to eat red meat but I will cut back on the portion size.

  6. by Stanley

     

    Thank you for posting this everyone thinks that Dr. Oz has the answers to all the great questions or that the doctors on the show The Doctors do and that simply isn’t the case. You have to take into consideration that they are TV personalities as well and that they do what makes the ratings. Keep on posting this stuff it is great and you did a good job.

  7. by Donna

     

    Most people consider turkey, chicken, and fish healthy, yet think they should avoid red meator only choose very lean cutssince they’ve always been told that it’s high in saturated fat. But there are two problems in that thinking. The first problem is that almost half of the fat in beef is a monounsaturated fat called oleic acidthe same heart-healthy fat that’s found in olive oil. Second, most of the saturated fat in beef actually decreases your heart-disease risk.

  8. by Mary

     

    I feel that lean beef can be a delicious part of a heart healthy diet. According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular diseases, including stroke, are the No. 1 cause of death in the United States. With such staggering statistics, it’s more important than ever for Americans to understand how to make informed dietary choices while still enjoying the foods they love – such as lean beef. Plus, a trainer once told me that it should be a staple of your diet if you lift weights.

  9. by Milton

     

    I had no idea that there were so many issues with this. Thank you for the work that you have put into this post I hope that you get many comments from people that will share this with people they know because this is stuff that everyone needs to know. Keep posting the good stuff you did a great job with this and I know your next one will be as well.

  10. by Megan

     

    I am a vegetarian so this is not a problem with me but I do have friends that eat a lot of meat and they would be curious to see this I think. Maybe the more the animal is raised with no chemical steroids and things in it’s food the better off the meat would be in the long run. I just don’t see why people have to eat meat at all though.

  11. by Mary

     

    I am surprised at this really, although I don’t believe the tales because I think we should eat meat at least a couple of times a week. This is a good article thank you for posting it this is going to be helpful for a lot of vegans but the meat eaters aren’t going to care for it. Keep up the good work you have done a great job.

  12. by Bruce

     

    I don’t know if this is questionable information or not but it is something that really needs to be known by people because so many people depend on Dr. Oz for dependable information. This was a great way to get the information out there and I know that people will see this and maybe question what he says sometimes instead of taking it word for word.

  13. by Mina

     

    So many people out there today trust what Dr. Oz says about everything simply because he is on TV that means he has to be right, right? I am loving the fact that you found something here that might open some people’s eyes to see that his advice might not always be the best advice out there and to actually talk to your doctor about things like this.

  14. by Anthony

     

    When the U.S. Department of Agriculture was created by Congress in 1862, it was called “The People’s Department because nine out of 10 Americans lived on the farm. Today, fewer than five percent of Americans live on farms. The majority are separated from farming by multiple generations. This means that for many people, the news media, books and movies are their sources for information about how America’s food is produced. So I think people need to educate themselves so they don’t fall prey to myths about beef.

  15. by Frank

     

    Meat has been tenderized by hand in kitchens for generations. Today’s beef community uses a similar technique on a broader scale – mechanical tenderization – to offer more consistently tender beef options to more consumers. Tenderization may mean a better consumer experience with Sirloin, for example, which is a naturally lean and nutritious but a little less tender cut. In any case, I am glad to hear about the benefits of beef cause I am a meat lover.

  16. by David

     

    What makes beef controversial is not the grass-fed partit’s the food itself. Regardless of whether you choose grass-fed or non grass-fed, organic or non-organic, lean cuts or fattier cuts, this food remains controversial. Grass-fed beef is not a mandatory food for any meal plan. However, some people may do well when including it in their diets, unless of course, they insist on being vegans. I respect their right to choose how they eat.

  17. by Stanley

     

    According to many of the documentaries I have watched about prehistoric eras, Neanderthal man used to hunt the wooly mammoth. In fact, it was not only a staple of a tribe’s diet, but they used other parts of such beasts as tools for shelter, clothing, weapons and utensils. Talk about not letting anything go to waste. I think eating beef is ingrained in humans. Everyone has a right to be a vegan, though, and get their protein from legumes.

  18. by Stephen

     

    For years, it seemed that every time I opened any popular consumer magazine, the health section would have an article beating up on beef. However, it now seems nutritionists are starting to change their tune regarding America’s favorite protein. It’s Jam-packed with important nutrients like protein, iron and zinc, so steak can definitely be a healthy choice as long as you choose a lean cut. And with 29 lean cuts of beef out there to choose from, it shouldn’t be hard to find one you enjoy.

  19. by Kenneth

     

    There is a small percentage of persons who don’t trust everything (or nothing) Dr. Oz says because they say that he is nothing more than a physician who uses the influence of his degree to hawk products he gets endorsement kick backs for. I think that is an extreme view. While supplements may be a subject that you can debate, I do trust his word on beef because many other professionals agree with his views.

  20. by Minnie

     

    It seems that everywhere you turn you are bombarded with carb-bashing rhetoric. Stores and food companies are even selling only low-carb products. The anti-carb craze has everything to do with the recent resurgence in high-protein fad diets. So what should we know about protein if we are concerned with losing or maintaining weight? How much do we need? What happens if we don’t get enough or if we get too much? And what does all of this have to do with successful weight loss? There’s more questions than answers for me.

  21. by David

     

    I will admit, I don’t really get consumed with all the details such as which kind of fats. If you are disciplined enough and you care enough about your health, you will exercise regularly and go shopping for whole foods. I can’t go wrong with high fiber foods, meat and legumes for protein and plenty of fruits and vegetables. I have stayed in shape by following these basics.

  22. by Philip

     

    If you’ve ever dined at a first class restaurant or watched a chefs competition on TV or a show host / reporter eat and review a fine dining establishment, you may have noticed that the portions are not only presented artistically, but that the portions are rather small. Master chefs know that in order to provide a great full course dining experience, the portions must be small so you don’t fill up before desert.

  23. by Robert

     

    I don’t know that I would call his advice questionable or not I men he is just verifying what others have said about meat before so that isn’t all bad right? I think people are miss guided on what they should eat anyway most of the time. Think old school and what they ate back on the farms in the old days when they grew and raised all they ate.

  24. by Suzan

     

    I don’t care who said it but if anyone that wasn’t on TV would have said this it wouldn’t have been a big deal. Isn’t the 3oz. rule what you should use for proportions on everything anyway? I know that vegetables you can eat more of but when you talk about protein, fiber etc. shouldn’t it only be 3 oz. or is that if you want to lose weight only?

  25. by Jan

     

    Touting grass-fed beef as having benefits over grain-finished beef can be a loaded topic, but some breeders from North Woods Ranch in northern Allegheny County believe it has better flavor and nutritional value, creates stronger biodiversity, and provides for better animal health and happiness. Has anyone heard the news about the first test tube beef patty? It’s too expensive to produce now, but it is the future of beef.

  26. by Jared

     

    I don’t think you should say that his advice was questionable when he is only repeating what the Food Administration was saying. I have taken a lot of advice from his show and it has all turned out to be good I think this one is not necessarily wrong it is just what the person eating the meat thinks. Keep posting this was great.

  27. by Dr. Dennis Clark

     

    All good points, Mary. Thanks for your input.

    Dennis

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