Is Red Meat Killing You?

A new study in the journal of Nature Medicine found that saturated fat and cholesterol are not the only things in red meat raising the risk of heart disease. Carnitine, a compound found in red meat, certain dietary supplements, and energy drinks, can contribute to atherosclerosis (a thickening of the arteries). Certain bacteria in the digestive tract convert carnitine into TMAO, which promotes atherosclerosis. Frequent meat eaters were found to have more of the bacteria, thus compounding a greater risk. Another study found that one additional serving a day of red meat raised risk of death by 13%.

Red meat also increases the risk of colon and gastric cancer. People eating 2.8oz of red meat a day were 30% more likely to develop colon cancer according to a study by EPIC. Not all meats are created equal, however. Fish, Turkey, Pork, and Buffalo (Bison) are all among the more healthy meats. Fish is a good source of long chain Omega-3 fatty acids, which are only found in animals. Buffalo burgers only contain about 4g of fat, which is 6% of the recommended daily value for a 2,000 calorie diet.

Pure vegetarianism or veganism also can cause some health problems. Because protein is so rich in calories and the human digestive tract has some trouble digesting plants, vegetarians have to eat much more food. They also run the risk of anemia and malnutrition. Humans are neither carnivores nor herbivores, but omnivores. We have a digestive system that will break down both acidic and alkaline based foods. Our closest relatives, chimpanzees, are also omnivores (eating plants, fruits, and monkeys). Compared to other animals humans eat just about everything, from brains to broccoli.

Human diets should, however, lean more toward plants than meat. The American diet is especially overly indulgent in meat. We average 3,774 calories per day, 562 of which come from meat. The recommended daily diet should be around 2,000-2,700 calories (depending on exercise). We eat an average of 12 oz. of meat per day, compared to a recommended 6-7 oz. The bottom line, most Americans need to eat healthier meat and less of it. However, cutting it out entirely is not the ideal health solution.

Additional Resources

The Wall Street Journal, New Health Worry in Red Meat:

Natural Medicine Journal, The Therapeutic Effects of Acytyl-L-Carnitine on Peripheral Neuropathy:

Ask Men, Healthiest Meats:

No Beliefs, Omnivore vs. Vegetarian:

Men’s Fitness, All-Meat vs. Vegetarian Diets:

Mother Nature Network, The Prius-driving Vegan vs. The Meat-eating Bicyclist:

Netrition, Reference Values for Nutrition Labeling:

Mayo Clinic, Dietary Fats:

EPIC Project, Key Findings:


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