This post is in three parts:
The first is a study quoted by my doc-crush, Dr. Mirkin. (Oh, get a hospital room already, Merry! ) The second was a fairly large study that was published in a reputable peer-reviewed journal.
And the third is a rant -- me sounding off proactively at people who might disagree with my conclusions re study #1 and study #2. (Why? Because I have a headache.)
The reason I think people might not like these studies is that both of them offer different reasons why we shouldn't eat red meat.
Sudden stampede of all the meat-lovers heading for the door...
Okay, Dr. Mirkin's study first.
There's a molecule called Neu5Gc. Professor Ajit Varki, of the University of California, San Diego discovered that this molecule appears in the tissues of every mammal except humans (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, September 29, 2003).
To quote Dr. Mirkin verbatim:
"Since humans cannot make Neu5Gc, any amount found in human cells come from the mammals that they have eaten. Neu5Gc is found in high levels in tumors, with the highest levels in metastasizing tumors. In our food supply, Dr. Varki found very high levels of Neu5Gc in beef, pork, lamb and goat, and moderately high amounts in milk and cheese. Low levels are found in turkey, duck, chicken and eggs; and negligible amounts occur in plants and seafood."
My summary: red meat = not good for humans.
The second study was a fairly large study -- 4680 adults aged 40-59 -- published by a reputable, peer-reviewed journal. For the researchers to flatly state, at the end of their abstract, that "An unfavorable effect of red meat on blood pressure was observed" -- that's a strong statement. I have to say that I'm impressed by this study.
Yeah, that's really interesting news, Merry. Ain't going to stop me from ordering prime rib next time I eat out though. So why should I care?
Humans are omnivores; we can eat all kinds of food stuffs that herbivores can't handle. We can take it.
Photo credit: Kate Raynes-Goldie
The proactive rant
Humans are omnivores, we can take it. Indeed, as you can verify by standing outside any Burger King at lunchtime, humans quite frequently do take it. To go. We eat meat. (I am making the assumption that the hordes of people darkening the doors of BK aren't going there for a salad -- at least, not the majority of them.) Then again, humans can also inhale tobacco smoke. Because we can do something does not seem to me to be a sufficient argument to say that it's an intelligent or healthy choice.
I have a feeling that I'm going to get people mad at me by saying red meat is something to maybe possibly consider avoiding. I don't want to get the Primal people going postal on me -- I really do like the Mark's Daily Apple blog and enjoy reading his blog regularly.
I agree that yes, Grok the caveman probably did hit up the local Mammoth King, i.e. he ate meat when he could catch it. I don't think that means he ate meat every day, or that he ate only meat, or that he skipped the veggies because he'd already had a snack on the way home. If your meat meal is still standing on its legs and doesn't really fancy being eaten, sometimes you're going to go without. Ask any lion pack. (From a safe distance. A hungry lion isn't really going to feel like having a debate.) I'm going to go out on a primeval limb and claim that cavemen ate any food was easiest to catch and in most seasons of the year, in most climates of the globe, that would have been fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
Unless you're out on your own trying to reenact Survivor, you've got it fairly easy. You don't have to catch the meat, you don't have to gather the nuts or vegetables. You can walk into a convenient store and pick up a package that's already slaughtered, sliced and diced. Just heat and serve. Try to do all the hunting & gathering, curing & cooking on your own and you might well end up like the guy in the book Into the Wild , who died up in Alaska after trying to live off the land. There's debate over what exactly killed him, but the autopsy results showed a man who was well on his way to starvation anyway.
Mark's Daily Apple does not advocate eating the food without walking the workout, but even so I worry that some people will adopt the caveman diet while keeping the modern, sedentary lifestyle. (The guy behind this blog comes from the perspective of someone who could knock of a few triathalons before breakfast, fer pete's sake.)
Anyway -- the point of my rant? The studies that impressed me so much both suggest that humans should not eat red meat. I do not think these studies contradict the basic message of primitive diets such as advocated by certain cool blogs, because a real primitive lifestyle would involve eating all kinds of protein: fish, fowl, or even duck-billed platypus if that was what was available locally.
I grew up firmly believing that I needed the occasional meat meal to survive, so I understand if people don't want to agree with these studies.
Tell me if you think they're wrong.
Or if you think I'm wrong.
Or if you think posting pictures of Paris Hilton pretending to chow down on a burger is wrong. (Anybody seriously believe she actually ate the burger? Really? Cool! Listen, I've got this prime location swampland in Florida that you're just going to looooove. Let me tell you all about it...)