I have studied diet and nutrition for decades; have personally tried at least a dozen different diets; and have watched documentaries and experts battle with one another for the “truth” about what diet is best. Here is a great article about a multi-year, multi-country study that is remarkably free of hype:
Clichés are so often true, and somehow an entire season has passed since I last wrote…
I’ve been experimenting with a new way of gardening: a mix of Hugelkulture and permaculture. Once I get some help uploading photos, I’ll post more on that. Teaser: it works fabulously!
I also spent a ridiculous number of hours doing a renovation project. Completion is very close, and that means more time freed up for research and education. Maybe even more posts…
The teaching has continued all summer, and we focused on nutrition after we spent weeks on the digestive system. Now we’ve segued into diet. I cannot believe how contentious this subject is! Vegan, paleo, vegetarian, omnivore: the experts mostly put a finger in the air and say “my way is the best.” People are adamant that you and I are eating too much or too little fat, too much or too little carbs, too much or too little protein. Saturated fat is the devil incarnate; starchy carbs fog your brain; gluten is evil; eating meat gives you cancer; soy isn’t really food; I could go on and on. But here’s the single most important piece of diet info I can give you: if your great, great grandmother didn’t eat it, neither should you! To be more blunt: processed food is killing us. To be even more specific: sugar is terrifically addictive, is empty calories, and we eat a ridiculous amount of it every day which directly and adversely affects our health. The best research I’ve come across basically says that most people can safely consume 15 grams of non-GMO cane sugar a day as well as 25 grams of fructose in the form of whole fruits a day. Any more than that and you can begin the cascade to metabolic syndrome, feed the “bad guys” of our gut biome, and do damage to neurotransmitters, not to mention depressing your entire immune system. Worried about the flu/cancer/Ebola/whatever other scary disease is on your personal radar? Then stop eating so much white flour and sugar.
It wouldn’t be so important except that the media seems to latch onto the worst of the flawed nutrition studies, and then tells us to change our behavior based upon these bad studies…sigh. So this one is about red meat, and, are you ready, was based upon FIVE meat-eaters and ONE vegan. You cannot make this stuff up!
Anyways, here’s the info thanks to our friends at Alliance for Natural Health:
Latest “Red Meat Study” Doubly Flawed
April 16, 2013
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No, meat is not unsafe—nor is L-carnitine.
A recent study published in the journal Nature Medicine associates the amino acid L-carnitine, found in red meat, supplements, and sports supplements, with the risk of heart disease. Here are some examples of what the media said about it: The Daily Mail (UK): “Red meat nutrient used in weight-loss and muscle-building supplements could cause heart disease”! The Dallas News: “Put down that steak! (and energy drinks, too); the carnitine in these foods may increase risk of cardiovascular disease”!
Here is the gist of the study:
a diet high in L-carnitine promotes the growth of certain bacteria that metabolize the amino acid;
during that metabolization, an organic compound called trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO) is produced in the blood; and
this compound increases risk of heart disease.
The study further states that vegetarians and vegans have different gut bacteria, which do not produce a burst of TMAO after consuming L-carnitine.
There is a lot to find fault with in this study.
First, there’s the question of the study participants. Most of the study was done on mice, though there was a human component—a tiny sample of only six people, five meat-eaters and one vegan. That’s right, their conclusion that vegetarians and vegans have different gut bacteria that don’t produce a burst of TMAO after consuming L-carnitine was based on just one individual.
We also don’t know how healthy the five meat-eaters were in this study. The study found that the red meat eaters did not produce TMAO after a course of antibiotics. This suggests that these subjects’ immune systems were already damaged—not that all meat eaters’ are. At the same time, it is still unclear whether TMAO production is caused by eating red meat at all (this was just an assumption), and whether raised TMAO levels actually cause heart disease.
Second, the idea that L-carnitine causes heart disease conflicts with other, better evidence. A large andrecent meta-analysis, published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, suggests that L-carnitine is helpful for heart disease, not a cause. This meta-analysis specifically tested L-carnitine on hard outcomes in humans who had already experienced acute myocardial infarction, and found that L-carnitine was associated with significant reduction in death from all causes and a highly significant reduction in ventricular arrhythmias and angina attacks following a heart attack, compared with placebo or control. In other words, L-carnitine, far from being harmful to the heart, actually heals it!
None of the media reports we saw bothered to mention any of the positive effects of L-carnitine—even those mentioned in the study itself. Its essential function is to transport fatty acids into our mitochondria, which may be why it is so beneficial to heart patients. It also helps with kidney disease and male infertility, reduces fat mass, increases muscle mass, and reduces fatigue. In elderly patients, it also helps energy metabolism and improves neurotransmitter function in the brain.
And if L-carnitine is actually good for us, what about meat? That’s still controversial. But other studies don’t support the conclusion that it harms us. An extremely large meta-analysis published by Circulation (over 1.2 million participants) found that fresh and unprocessed red meat consumption was not associated with increased heart disease risk, stroke, or diabetes.
In addition, this one, much-hyped study makes no differentiation between different types or sources of meat. As we have discussed frequently in the past, industrialized factory farm meat is very different from organic, local, grass-fed meat in its nutrient composition. Meat from CAFOs—that is, confined animal feeding operations—contains twenty times the amount of omega-6 fatty acids (which are associated with inflammation, arthritis, and cancer) than healthier omega-3 fatty acids, have muchmore fat marbling, and may be full of antibiotics.
Grass-fed beef has nearly seven times more omega-3s than omega-6s, so eaten in moderation, it offers healthier levels of essential fats. Moreover, grass-fed beef is lower in total fat, and higher in vitamin E complex, beta-carotene, thiamine, riboflavin, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and CLA—and these differences may have a tremendous impact on both the types of bacteria in the gut and the levels of TMAO produced. But of course, we won’t know about that, because this was never even thought about in the study.
What none of these overhyped media reports—not to mention the study itself— take into account is the reality of bio-individuality. No one diet, and no one selection of supplements, should be advocated for everyone. Only a balanced diet tailored to each individual body’s personal needs will ensure one’s health in the long run.
16. Some experts are really into legumes, some not. Soaking is essential. (and anytime I say “soak” I mean pouring water over the bean or grain, letting it sit overnight, and then pouring off the water and rinsing. If you want to go the extra mile here then you add a teaspoon of lemon juice to the soak water…I use whey from my kefir-making, but that is harder to come by).
17. Dairy is really best eaten raw: raw butter, raw milk, raw cheese (which is the easiest to procure, but is very acidic due to its concentration). The easiest dairy formost folks to digest is raw goat’s milk made into kefir or yogurt, with the temp never going above 105 degrees. It is untrue that you can’t make yogurt at that temp: I do it all the time! And speaking of probiotics, sauerkraut is great: but do not buy the canned, or cook the fresh. We are aiming for the “live” food here.
18. Certified organic extra virgin olive oil is best for raw use on salads (and that form is pretty much a guarantee that you are getting top quality, as adulteration in olive oil is rampant).
19. For cooking, use ghee or coconut oil (saturated oils are not damaged by heating; all the polyunsaturated oils are, and they’ve been messed with in manufacturing),
20. One of my favorite cookbooks for finding recipes that reflect the info I’ve given you is Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. lots of way cool advice on how to do fermenting, bone broths, soaking, etc. plus “regular” recipes. If you pop onto my website ( www.irisherbal.com , you can click on books, find it there, and it will take you to Amazon.com.
21. Herbs and spices are medicine! Add lots to what you are cooking. Go ethnic! Play! We’re finding that common ordinary herbs and spices are incredibly active: anti-inflammatory, cancer-cell-death-precipitators (turmeric, for example), and they make meals taste better and more interesting, especially if you are cutting down or eliminating sugar.