When SBS do a short doco that happens to be anything food or nutrition related, word gets out very quickly amongst health and nutrition circles, and following on is plenty of banter, discussion, and opinions on whatever the topic was. A recent program however seemed to get missed this time, and even I watched it after it appeared on television. It aired last week and was titled "Should I Eat Meat?" which had both vegos and non-vegos alike interested to hear the outcome.
If you haven't seen it I highly recommend having a look - especially as it only airs online until November 17th (ie. next Monday). ---> Click here to watch it now
So, Should We Eat Meat?
"Depending on what you have recently read or heard on the news, meat is either a protein-rich and nutrient-packed dietary necessity... or artery-clogging, life-shortening food to avoid. I am genuinely confused and would dearly love to separate fact from fiction" says Michael Mosley (the guy who brought us the 5:2 Diet) at the beginning of the episode.
The rest of the episode is following Michael in search of researchers and scientists who can answer his questions about meat consumption and the health effects of meat consumption, and as a side line we also get to see how Michael travels whilst eating twice the daily recommended meat red consumption, every day.
In the UK, the daily recommendation for red meat is 70g/day. So Michael starts eating 130g/day. And I have to say, it looks like it wouldn't touch the sides of what I see most Aussie men put on their plate each day.
130 grams of red meat looks like:
2 pieces of bacon (for brekkie) and 1 burger pattie (for dinner) OR
1 medium-large sized steak OR
1 sausage and 2 pieces of ham
Over the course of the entire month, this is the amount that he will consume. And as he says himself, it doesn't look too hard to do.
ONE MONTH = 3.64 KILOS RED MEAT
What he (and we) learnt as a result may surprise you...
// Worldwide meat consumption has nearly doubled in the last 50 years
// High intakes of red and processed meats do have an impact on cardiovascular health; but we are completely unsure as to why
// Saturated fats can be wiped off as a contributing factor however
// The new hypothesis is that L-carnitine in the lean meat may have be a contributing factor to heart disease (that is, nothing in the fat, but in the meat itself). The L-carnitine can react with bacteria in our gut to produce what is called TMAO, which is a substance that slows down the removal of cholesterol from our arteries
// There have been chemical factors in processed meats shown to cause and increase cancer growths in cells
// Sodium nitrate in processed foods is there to kill bacteria, however in our stomach, it reacts with amino acids to form nitrosamines. Scientists believe that these are quite chemically reactive, and when they make their way down into the gastrointestinal tract, they can start interacting with DNA, cells and tissues, and that is what is believed to initiate the cancer process.
// When meats are smoked, it is done so with the same chemicals in cigarettes (PAHs). These are still only a suspected link when talking about processed meats and cancer... But regardless, it's not something I would want to be consuming even if all the researched evidence suggested there were no cancer links. Gross.
4 weeks later on a high meat diet..
// Yes, Michael's cholesterol levels went up
// His body fat went up (and it was visceral fat - the dangerous kind around the abdomen)
// Total weight also went up (due to the above)
// And his blood pressure went up
My Unanswered Questions...
Q. What about grass-fed organic meats? I would really like to see the same month long research done using organic meats for my own curiosity. Minus all processed meats.
Q. What about organ meats in place of muscle meats? These are far more nutritious and again, I would be surprised if the ill effects seen after a month on 130 grams of red meat each day, would be the same if organ meats were eaten.
Q. What about L- Carnitine in supplement form? Does it have the same hypothesised effects as L- Carnitine in lean red meat?
Q. What about the faith, regular weekly services, many social engagements, and observation of the Sabbath contributing to the health and longevity of Seventh Day Adventists? Not just the vegetarian diet?
Some more research to be done...
My Take Home Notes...
// Eat more vegetables and fruits, nuts, seeds, and sprouts before loading your plate on meats every meal
// Ensure a variety of protein sources to not always rely on red meat - nuts, seeds, eggs, tempeh, fish, seafood, protein powders, legumes, chickpeas, hummus, turkey, chicken, and organ meats
// Join Meatless Mondays at the very least, or go meatless more days each week
// Enjoy fermented veggies with your meat to ensure better digestion and break down of the meat
// Make sure your bowels eliminating properly when you eat meat regularly
// Eat smaller portions of meat when you do eat it
// Ditch "moderation" as this will always be different for everybody. Get to know your body and what it thrives off and follow that knowing
// Include rest and relaxation as part of your daily routines. Make social engagements regularly. Join community activities. Eat fermented foods if you can tolerate them. Create your own spiritual practice. Drink sufficient filtered water for you size and lifestyle. And cultivate happiness.