Red meat has long been a favorite protein source for gym goers and bodybuilders. Besides, who doesn’t love a good steak after a hard day of training? The problem is that red meat might be a little more harmful on internal health than most people are aware of.
A large body of evidence suggests that red meat - especially when processed - is strongly correlated with all-cause mortality, colorectal cancer and other carcinomas, atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, and possibly other inflammatory processes. In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified processed red meat as carcinogenic to humans, linking it specifically to colon cancer, and unprocessed red meat as “probably carcinogenic”.
Many people criticize the WHO as issuing such statements purely for fear-mongering purposes (and of course the voice of the WHO carries a certain weight to it). Nevertheless, it’s worthwhile to examine the science behind red meat consumption and health because it’s too vague to simply label it as a carcinogen. Read on as we look at what science has to say about red meat, whether or not consuming it is harmful physiologically, and if so, how to ameliorate the ramifications with diet and supplementation.
Ramifications of Amines Found in Red Meat
Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic amines (PAHs) are classes of compounds found in cooked foods and linked to a wide variety of cancers; the latter are also implicated in lowering testosterone levels., HCAs are produced by cooking red meat at high temperatures for a prolonged period of time, causing the amino acids, sugars and creatine to react.
PAHs, on the other hand, are formed through mechanisms that are not fully understood; however, the likely causes are from incomplete combustion of cooking fuel and pyrolysis of fat at high temperatures. PAHs are found in many meats, including cured and smoked varieties. Despite HCAs and PAHs being present in poultry and fish after high temperature cooking, there remains an increased health risk from red meat consumption.
Naturally then, the best way to reduce HCAs and PAHs in your diet is to cook at lower temperatures; avoid barbecuing, liquid-smoke type ingredients, and smoked/cured meats. Thus, cooking methods like roasting, low-temperature pan frying, stewing, steaming, and microwaving are more prudent. If roasting/pan frying, any drippings should not be utilized.
How Much HCA/PAH Consumption is Harmful?
To keep things practical, the amount of HCAs which induce cancer in animals are upwards of 100,000 times what meat-eating humans typically ingest. HCAs are certainly harmful in large quantities, but it remains to be elucidated if they are harmful in the amounts consumed by an average meat-eating human.
If you absolutely must cook meat at high temperatures, there a few research-backed options to reduce the HCA content, including consuming polyphenols, such as Celery 3nB™ and MegaNatural BP™ found in MPA HEARTSOLVE.
The effects of consuming polyphenols from grape seed and other plants on PAHs is not known. Nevertheless, PAHs can typically be avoided by simply avoiding barbecuing and charring the outside of meat you consume.
N-Nitroso Compounds and Carnitine in Red Meat
N-Nitroso compounds (NOCs) have been known for quite some time to be carcinogenic; they are found in nitrite-preserved foods and are produced by the body via heme iron when red meat is consumed. Bodybuilders tend to fear soy-based foods, but research shows that a key isoflavone in soy - genistein - actually inhibits the production of endogenous NOCs from red meat consumption.
Moreover, the iron found in red meat is heme iron and apart from its effect on NOCs, it is possibly also implicated in increased risk of colon cancer and/or small intestine cancer due to its catalytic effect on lipid peroxidation (though the data on this is inconclusive). Heme iron is also a strong pro-oxidant and the reactive oxygen species end products which are formed its metabolism can damage β-cells in the pancreas (increasing risk of type-2 diabetes). Therefore, consuming a potent antioxidant supplement such as MPA CARDIOSOLVE is strongly advised if you consume red meat daily.
Red meat also contains high levels of carnitine, which is a precursor of a chemical called trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO). Red meat consumption increases TMAO production in the body and has been linked to greater risk for cardiovascular disease. It appears that gut bacteria composition can positively (or negatively) affect the health consequences of TMAO build up in the body.
For example, trans-resveratrol is a prebiotic which inhibits formation of TMAO via modulation of the gut bacteria, as does a substance called DMB which is found in red wine, balsamic vinegar and cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil. As such, having a glass of red wine might not be such a bad idea to go along with those steak dinners.
Red meat contains a molecule called Neu5Gc and the body has a natural antibody to it. Thus, when Neu5Gc is ingested via consumption of red meat, inflammation occurs due to the reaction between Neu5Gc and the natural antibodies. This inflammation is proposed to be a mechanism through which red meat can cause multiple cancers and it is also implicated in other diseases such as leprosy, rheumatoid arthritis and syphilis.,
Fortunately Neu5Gc can be neutralized before it causes inflammation by concurrent administration of Neu5Ga. Apart from directly supplementing with Neu5Ga, it is also present in whey protein and egg yolks.
So Should You Avoid Red Meat?
The 2008 Nobel Prize winner and world-renowned virologist Harald zur Hausen made his mark in the field of oncology in 1976 when he published a paper positing that human papillomavirus (HPV) plays a crucial role in the development of cervical cancer. In 2008, he theorized that there may be a heat-resistant virus commonly present in red meat products which is causative of colorectal cancer. To back this theory, he noted the oddly low presence of colorectal cancer in countries like Bolivia and Mongolia despite their high red meat intake.
Therefore, it is thought that the strong correlation between colorectal cancer and red meat consumption in countries like the United States is linked to dairy products deriving from Bos Taurus species cattle. It is likely that species-specific viral agents produce a latent infection of the colon, and subsequent exposure to the aforementioned chemical carcinogens produced during cooking of red meat act synergistically with the latent virus to increase the risk of colorectal cancer. This is slightly disconcerting considering that this particular species of cattle is used abundantly in several major countries for making red meat food products.
Furthermore consumption of Bos-taurus derived dairy products, particularly consumed at an early age, appears to be a risk factor for breast cancer. In a 2015 study, three different types of heat-resistant known oncogenic viruses were found in samples of ground beef purchased at supermarkets and in another study they found multiple viruses in samples of commercially-available beef, chicken and pork.,
The presence of these viruses in the meat does not necessarily mean that the meat was carcinogenic because other interactions are required before the start of cancer; however the theory is worthy of further study. At the end of the day, limited red meat consumption to a couple times per week (or less), along with consuming polyphenol-rich compounds found in fruits, vegetables, and supplements like MPA HEARTSOLVE and CARDIOSOLVE is strongly suggested to ensure proper health and longevity.
Key Bullet Points (for avoiding harmful effects of red meat):
A lot was covered in this article, so to give you a brief rundown of what the key take-home points were, here’s a consolidated list:
- Eat a large amount fibrous vegetables and antioxidant-rich fruits to keep your body in an alkaline state and protect your kidneys.
- If you regularly eat red meat then make sure to also consume HEARTSOLVE and CARDIOSOLVE for polyphenols and antioxidant micronutrients.
- Maintain regular intake of prebiotics (digestion-resistant starch, oat bran, wheat bran, etc.) and probiotics to reduce protein fermentation in colon and reduce gut bacterial formation of TMAO. Also consider drinking a glass of red wine when eating red meat.
- Don’t use pan drippings from frying and roasting meats due to the high amounts of HCAs.
- Avoid eating barbecue or smoked/cured meat as much as possible.
- Whenever possible, reduce the HCA and PAH content of meat by utilizing low-temperature cooking methods. This includes cooking at temperatures below 170 degrees celsius, such as roasting, boiling, steaming, microwaving and stewing.
- Consider eating 30-40g per day of soy for overall renal health and to prevent red-meat induced formation of NOCs.
I’d really like to be able to say that if you follow all of my recommendations that you will be able to bypass all of the risk factors associated with eating animal-source protein, however I don’t think that we necessarily know all of the possible pathways through which deleterious health issues can occur or even fully understand the pathways which have been proposed thus far.
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