Dear Mark: Is Meat Going to Kill Me (Again)?

Red MeatThere’s another “meat is bad” study making the rounds, featuring such stellar prose as:

“Although causality cannot be established…”

“…further research is recommended.”

“…should still strive to reduce intake of red and processed meat, which tend to contain high amounts of saturated fat and sodium.”

And so on.

By now, we see these lines, roll our eyes, and keep on moving down the path that seems to be helping us. But that’s us, people who pay attention to nutrition news and stay abreast of the literature. We may be able to write off these breathless articles without thinking we’re going to die because we ate that bunless burger the other day, but our parents, our friends, our colleagues may not be so well-equipped. They’re worried about our health, and who can blame them? If you take mainstream health articles at face value, articles which confirm what your doctor is probably telling you, you would do the same.

Hi Mark,

Have you heard about the latest study saying that we’re all killing ourselves? I’m personally not that worried, but I’ve been getting a ton of frantic and/or smug emails from concerned and/or smug friends and loved ones. I’d love to be able to point them toward something to explain the results. Think you could tackle it?



This is another in a long line of observational studies that find associations between processed meat intake and early death so that journalists can feel superior about something while writing easy articles (with lots of copy and pasting from the last one). I mean, aren’t they all the same? “Regardless, [name of expert] is quick to urge consumers to cut back on [delicious, Primal food that has supposedly been killing us humans, bite by bite, for tens of thousands of years] and reduce the overall percentage of [saturated fat or cholesterol or sodium] in their diets.” If you’ve read one, you’ve read ’em all.

I feel like I’ve done all this before. I’m experiencing the distinct sensation of deja vu, kinda like when you have a dream and it feels like you’ve had it before, but when you wake up and try to piece it all together with a clearer mind, you realize that it was a totally unique vision and just an artifact of the nature of dreamscape. This may not involve showing up late to the big exam in the nude or falling from a cliff and waking up right before you hit ground, but it’s strangely familiar, isn’t it?

Being hit with one of these studies every couple months like clockwork wears down a man. It boggles me how people can grapple with the same questions (oftentimes using the same datasets), never coming to a conclusion, never even getting any closer to the truth, always dancing around on the edges. I get that this is how science works – you can’t leap to conclusions that aren’t actually there – but why not ask some different questions? It’s the same thing over and over again.

And yet it will be thrown in your face, so let’s go over it.

The study used data from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study, which collected complete information on diet, smoking status, physical activity, and BMI from almost a half million men and women without stroke, cancer, or heart disease. They grabbed a decade’s worth of data along with “clinical endpoints” (death from various causes), and have since been running the numbers to see the effect of various factors – usually a particular category of food or nutrient – on mortality. Today’s study was about the effect of red meat and processed meat on all-cause mortality.

What did they find?

The highest intake of processed meat was associated with a 44% increase in all-cause mortality. That could be death from bladder cancer, myocardial infarction, or car accident. Anything goes. This association was reduced to 24% after adjusting for smoking, but it wasn’t eliminated. Adjusting for other confounders, like energy intake, alcohol intake, body weight, activity levels, and produce intake, was also unable to totally make up the difference. Doing all the right things and avoiding all the wrong things still didn’t remove the association. Interestingly, the lowest intake of processed meat (none) was associated with more mortality than low or moderate consumption of it. Perhaps some meat-based nutrients are so vital that getting them via Lunchables is better than nothing?

Intake of unprocessed red meat was barely associated with increased all-cause mortality until adjusting for other confounding factors, after which point the association vanished completely. These confounding factors included overall energy intake, alcohol intake, smoking, body weight, activity levels, and produce intake.

There’s a definite healthy user bias when it comes to processed meat. People who ate the most processed meat also ate the least amount of fruits and vegetables. They also smoked and (the men, at least) drank a lot and tended to avoid the gym. Red meat eaters, too. As I said, they tried to account for these confounding variables, but I’m skeptical they can do so completely.

I’m just happy they’ve actually started differentiating between red and processed meat. It used to be that “red meat” was cautioned against on the strength of studies which lumped fresh rare rib-eyes and braised short ribs with Oscar Meyer hotdogs, bologna, and ham Lunchables, but some of the latest ones have realized there’s a difference between the two. Next, it’d be nice to see what happens if they start accounting for what people eat alongside processed meat; I’m pretty sure white bread buns, strange goopy seed oil sauces, and french fries all play their role, too.

Another pleasant thing about this study is that the articles it’s spawned have generally been high quality. Confounding variables, the difference between causation and correlation, and the fact that fresh red meat had no significant associations with mortality were all mentioned and addressed in most of the articles I came across.

So, to sum up: This was an observational study that only showed correlations. It did not establish causation.

Assuming the correlations indicated causation (which, you know, we have no way of knowing), fresh red meat has no effect on mortality. Processed meat does, but this effect is lessened when you account for the fact that processed meat eaters also lead generally unhealthy lifestyles bereft of exercise and produce and replete with smoking, overeating, and, for men, drinking. Even so, those adjustments were purely mathematical. Even the authors of the study “could not exclude residual confounding,” the general unhealthy lifestyle effect. You can’t quantify general unhealthiness, recklessness, psychological stress, and all the other factors that affect our health and mortality. They didn’t track things like checkups at the doctor, either.

All that said, this research isn’t saying anything we’re not already aware of.

Real red meat, fresh cuts of cow, pig, and lamb, are nutritious foods. There’s no evidence that they’re killing us en masse.

Don’t make processed meat your major source of animal products. Eat steak, not those weird processed meat sticks they sell at gas stations. I’ve said this before.

And yes, bacon is delicious, but it shouldn’t replace real, actual meat in your diet. A pound of bacon for breakfast is a fun thing to have when your vegetarian friends stay over, though – I’ll admit that.

Eat your produce, folks. It’s good for you, and it may even reduce the formation of carcinogenic compounds when co-ingested with meat (steak and salad, anyone?). That could explain the relative reduction in mortality among people who ate lots of fruits and vegetables with their processed meat.

Don’t overcook your meat. The authors speculate that high-heat processing and the subsequent formation of heterocyclic amines (HCA) could explain the association between processed meat and mortality. Other studies have certainly found a connection between high-heat cooking, HCA, and prostate cancer, so I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a mechanism there.

Your Primal way of eating may kill you, kill you even deadergive you diabetes, give you diabetes againgive you breast cancer, be worse for you than smoking, and give you heart disease, but none of these studies actually say it.

Hope this helps, everyone. Thanks for reading and be sure to leave a comment!

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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121 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Is Meat Going to Kill Me (Again)?”

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  1. I just L-O-V-E it when they tell you to cut back on meat for menopausal reasons–it seems they’ve somehow associated meat with hot flashes and weight gain because of the fat content.

    1. There is scientific evidence that hot flashes are a result of a cascade effect that begins in the brain when lowered estrogen levels inhibit glucose transport mechanisms– and it goes from there. The solution? A Ketogenic Diet! High fat, very low carb, moderate protein. (Minimizes brain glucose in favor of ketones, thereby eliminating the glucose transport issue) And guess what? It works–at least for me! Since I discovered that info, I doubled down on my LCHF diet even further, and frequent hot flashes are now infrequent, mild “warm waves” that are quite minor and don’t even wake me up. Ahhhh… Blessed Sleep! I know Mark isn’t big on ketosis, but sometimes a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do….

      1. Emelee – Thanks for this info. I have noticed that sugar (not that I usually indulge in the white stuff, but rarely I have it, or dried fruit, or even too much dark chocolate) and alcohol cause worse hot flushes. I have been experimenting and tried flax seeds (linseeds), which have omega 3 fats, too. This seemed to help – but on your comments, seems I should try VLC for awhile!

        1. My wife has found supplementing with myomim has pretty much rid her of the hot or even warm flashes. For men helps reduce visceral fat. Yes it really works.

      2. Thank you, Emelee, I will happily reduce my already low carbs further if it will help with these [email protected]@dy hot flashes that deny me proper sleep! Excuse me, I’m off to VLC Land now…

      3. When I was a biological anthropology undergrad one of my professors was doing studies on female hormone levels among various peoples buried in the highest mountains of Bolivia. I’ll never forget how she said that when she asked about ‘menopause’ the women there didn’t even know what she was talking about. Oh they knew that older women couldn’t have babies any more but they had no notion that there were ‘symptoms’ associated with that time. Was it their ancient diet (potatoes, veggies, meats, occasional corn)? Super high daily energy expenditures? A do it yourself and not complain about it culture? No idea, maybe all of the above.


      4. Join the crowd–that’s exactly what I’m doing….and laughing hysterically at all that “conventional wisdom” out there about eating your soy, and taking your block cohosh.

      5. OMG, I literally just started having peri-menopausal hot flashes a couple of days ago. Of course, I did cheat on my LCHF diet this weekend, so perhaps it was all the wheat on the *breaded* chicken parm submarine sandwich that triggered terrible night sweats and lots of rosy feelings over the past few days. I got back on course on Monday, and today I only had one flash, so I’m thinking that the wheat is finally making its way out of my system!

        Was about to do a search for what I should eat to reduce hot flashes, and voila! You’d laid it out right here for me!


    2. I am 60. I have never had a hot flash or any other sign of menopause. It just happened, I guess. It was such a non-event, that I wasn’t aware of it. I have been low-carb for 14+ years, so I went through menopause at some point during that time frame when the bulk of my diet has been meat-based – rib-eye steaks several times a week and no “healthywholegrains” to be seen. So, at least anecdote-wise, it doesn’t appear that eating meat has anything to do with hot flashes.

      1. I totally agree with you. I have always eaten a moderate amount of meat, and got through menopause without much drama at all.

  2. “Bacon shouldn’t replace real, actual meat in your diet”???

    OOOOHHHHHH. Whoops.

    1. So…… does this apply to thick center cut bacon too? … then I eat bunch of that together… it feels like real meat!

    1. Huh, that’s interesting! I wish the article gave more information. I wonder if there’s any way to know what the diets of those mummies actually looked like. I also wonder how old they were when they died.

      1. It’s a bit more complicated when you include the non Egyptianmummies, but the initial studies there look at High status Egyptians from a society that ate a lot of grain. They used Emmer wheat to make bread, barley to make beer, and these were the staple foods of the population rich and poor. That and cake in the case of the rich. Marie Antoinette would have loved it.

        Talking of historical femme fatales, the prominence of Cleopatra is less to do with her skills as a seductress and more because of the Caesar and Antony’s need to control Egypt and hence Rome’s grain supply. The bread for bread and cuircuses had to come from somewhere, and that somewhere was Egypt. These things don’t tend to suggest that the Egyptian mummies were eating a paleo like diet in anyway shape or form.

        Of course, if you’re a lazy journalist the difference between paleolithic and simply old like these mummies isn’t worth distinguishing.

    2. It is very interesting that you brought this article up. This article had me perplexed as well. They weren’t just Egyptian mummies but mummies from all around the world

      I will be honest I was a bit worried and felt a little bit of hopelessness that any diet could prevent heart disease, but after doing some digging it seems logical that chronic elevation of cortisol is the suspected link. Cortisol levels raise during times of stress and infection. Cortisol release raises blood sugar levels and insulin resistance. After all your body needs any energy to fight OR flight. The problem is that Chronic elevated levels of cortisol cause high blood pressure, narrowing of the arteries and the damage to our arteries over time. The Atherosclerosis might very well just be because of the damage to the arteries. Our ancestors were probably under a great deal of stress just trying to survive and fighting infection.

  3. I get this comment all the time from family and friends who’ve not bought into the Primal lifestyle (yet!), as soon as you mention the “processed” vs not argument the topic changes quickly…

    People can be amazingly fervent and determined whist only knowing 10% of the facts… sometimes it feels that people are threatened by other’s success stories through doing something new!

  4. Yesterday in my personal Facebook feed:

    “We need to eat more veggies in our family. What can I replace with ground beef for chili?”

    It’s simply a completely different mindset.

    1. Suggest they buy the piece of beef whole and chop it themselves, no grinding, and declare that it will please the meat gods and they will not be damned to vegertarian purgatory.
      Or if that doesnt help, suggest ground shoe leather.

  5. We eat bacon without the artificial preservatives. I don’t see a difference between eating that versus some other fresh meat from the pig. Between the “healthy” choice bias and inability to sort out details at this level, I suspect a quality bacon cooked properly is adding to health.

    1. I read this article wondering the same type of thing… my kids and I take a paleo lunch daily to school & work, complete with nitrate/nitrite free lunch meats, thinking these were better. So maybe it is the heat-processing, as much as the additives that are bad. We do eat tons of vegs, at least. any thoughts? Knock off all deli meats?

      1. Check the labels if you think you are eating “nitrate-free” meats. If it contains celery juice or powder, it has sodium nitrite, which occurs in fairly large quantities in celery (and many other vegetables). But don’t be afraid either way. Sodium nitrite is a naturally occurring substance, just like that other chemical, sodium chloride (plain old table salt). Large quantities of either type of salt are certainly not healthy (enough of either will kill you), but studies linking sodium nitrite to cancer have recently been shown to have been overstated. Like Mark says, don’t make preserved or cured meats the stable of your meat consumption, but a little goes a long way.

        Here’s an ingredient list for Oscar Meyer bacon – what many would consider a big offender in the world of processed meats: Ingredients Water, Salt, Sugar, Sodium Phosphate, sodium ascorbate, sodium nitrite. Sodium ascorbate is basically vitamin C. (Not sure about sodium phosphate).

        Here’s a list of ingredients from Applegate Farms Organic bacon: Organic Pork, Water, Sea Salt, Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, Celery Powder, Lactic Acid Starter Culture. The celery powder is there, not for flavor, but to take advantage of the anti-microbial properties of the nitrates it contains.

        Anyway, I’d probably be more concerned about the conditions in which the pig was raised and slaughtered than by any of the ingredients on the Oscar Meyer package. Meat production at that volume is a pretty frightening thing. Although if you consider how widely available Applegate Farms products are, my guess is those pigs weren’t exactly raised like Wilbur from Charlotte’s Web, even if they are technically organic.

        1. Oscar Meyer bacon isn’t even real bacon, just bacon flavored water?

      2. A few thoughts . . . I do on occasion buy deli turkey (usually Applegate) for my 3yo because it is easy. But we have cut way back — it’s pretty easy to buy a turkey breast and cook it and then cut slices for lunch. What is deli turkey and where does it come from? I don’t think we want to know the answer (and I’m not really that concerned about the nitrate issue b/c some veggies actually produce when you consume them). Eat real food. I see bacon as real food, but not deli meat. That being said, I have doubts even that processed meats themselves led to an increase in mortality because of the healthy selection bias.

        More random thoughts, the study says higher processed meat intake was correlated with lower education levels. This sort of finding could often be correlated with lower income levels (and I suspect higher carb intakes b/c of cheap calories). There could be many mechanisms at work here.
        My husband was working at a food bank over the weekend and the mountain of bad food he saw was disheartening.

      3. IMHO, this bias against processed meats has not been well thought out, nor frankly justified.

        Processed meats contain meat (good), organs (good), meat from many species such as beef, pork, and turkey (good).

        The jury is out, again IMHO, on nitrates.

        So where’s the beef? For me, it is when I see processed meats that have added sugar and/or other chemicals. And, meats from animals with questionable feed practices (not to mention inhumanely treated, thought that’s not a nutrition issue).

        Having cured my own meats and made my own sausages, I’m comfortable eating my fill of processed meats. I tend to like my meat ‘pre-chewed’, i.e. ground meats, sausages, hot dogs, bologna, etc., and have no qualms continuing to eat that way.

        I’m still waiting for anyone to defend the ‘no processed meats’ beyond the normal avoidance of eating chemical’y-laden food, an avoidance which should govern all our food choices.

        Mark has had a bias against processed meats on this blog for years. (“So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal.”) I have not seen even mildly compelling reasons presented to support that bias.

        (But… I’ve followed MDA for years and I can’t offer enough praise of what Mark does, and has done, here… we’ll just have to disagree on this point.)

        1. p.s…. one might also note that lumping all processed meats into one heading, Processed Meats, is grossly oversimplifying things. Even in my hot-dog-laden opinion, there are good and bad processed meats out there.

        2. +1

          And look at pemmican. If that isn’t “processed meat”, I don’t know what is.

        3. Processed meat is a large and varied category. One of the most interesting and informative cookbooks that I have EVER read deals with every possible variation on processing:

          Ruhlman and Polcyn, Charcuterie: the Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing.

          Really, this book blew my mind. And confirmed my love of pork. I recommend it to all primal cooks.

    2. I’d worry less about the preservatives and more about the fat in the pork. Pork can have a pretty bad fatty acid profile if it isn’t from pastured pigs eating a diet lower in Omega-6s (they can be out in a field and still get most of their calories from corn and soy feed). Bacon makes it worse because it has such a high fat content. If bacon is the meat of choice in your household, you’d likely see health benefits in switching to lower fat cuts and/or more beef, lamb, and venison (and their offal!). If you have it for breakfast every few days and use it to flavor veggies every now and then, I don’t think Mark’s comment applies to you.

  6. I highly recommend curing your own bacon at home. It’s super easy and there are no mystery ingredients. The pastured pork bellies from heritage breeds of pigs available at Heritage Foods USA are nothing short of amazing. The flavor is simply orders of magnitude superior to any organic or pastured bacon I’ve tried from the grocery store. They also are offering 4 different breeds of heritage lamb for the holidays! Go meat!

    1. Do they do mail order? Can you get good quality lard from them too?

  7. I wonder if the authors started with a bias. Here is a quote from the link:

    EPIC was designed to investigate the relationships between diet, nutritional status, lifestyle and environmental factors and the incidence of cancer and other chronic diseases.

    This webpage has a picture of many breads and grains, fruits and vegetables, BUT NO MEAT

    1. The first reason posited by the authors for the higher incidence of disease caused by processed meat was the increased fat content. Second was curing process or nitrates. I immediately suspect a bias in the interpretation when there is already a bias against fat.

  8. I don’t get many comments about red meat, just now and then. Mostly people say, “What? No bread, no pasta??? How can that be a healthy diet.” Amazing that so many people still don’t know anything about gluten sensitivity.

  9. This reminds me of my whole foods trip yesterday. A fast trip of eggs, cheese, fresh meat, salad and kale. Behind me, a vegan cheese, canned bean buying woman. My weight? Lean. Her weight? Obese. I guess if meat kills us it kills us beautifully.

    1. Hear hear! I’m with you on this one – kill me beautifuly with steak please!

    2. Honestly, I find the opposite at my whole foods. Tons of extremely fit, good looking people buying lots of fruits, veggies, grains, and chicken breasts. In fact, I see it so consistently it made me question my own diet. (Which is good, it’s good to question your own prejudices constantly.)

      There are certainly many ways to be fit. Even Vegan, if done right, can be healthy. I think it’s important the paleo community doesn’t ever become as vain and judgmental as the Vegan community has.

      1. I am going to do an informal study on this my next time at Whole Foods. I have only one time seen a paleo/primal shopper at our standard grocery store (other than us). Pretty much everyone I see has some wheat or sugar laden product at check out.

      2. Well put, thank you. As a vegetarian (not vegan) who is lean and healthy and admires what Mark does here very much, I think you have an excellent and refreshing perspective.

      3. Bob, I completely agree! I’m actually doing a blog series now on veganism, and I’m really enjoying the new perspective it’s giving me on food in general. I know I wouldn’t do well on a vegan diet, but if other people can be healthy as vegans, I’m all for it!

        1. ” I know I wouldn’t do well on a vegan diet, but if other people can be healthy as vegans, I’m all for it!”

          I’m not really for it. I’m old(ish). I’m tired of pretending everyone’s diet choices are “the best if it works for them”.

          Science says that chemical reactions must turn out the same every single time. Our biochemistry really doesn’t vary to the point where we’re all purple snowflakes. Otherwise modern medicines would all be total crap shoot everytime someone tried to take them.

          A vegan coming from SAD will probably experience a short lived improvement because they’ve excluded dairy.

          After that it’s a long slow slide into chronic ill health (inflammation, infection) because they systematically exclude, mostly for moral reasons, the food we digest best. A decade long vegan may look well or even thin. But that doesn’t mean good health. Ask them how much antibiotics they need annually or if they are mainlining ibuprofen for headaches (or if a woman), what their periods are like. Those are the revealing answers.

          We live an enthusiastic and tolerant era. I’ve not found nature to be quite so kind. 🙁

      4. Promoting paleo and promoting vegan isn’t even close. The paleo community believes that paleo is the best diet. I suppose vegans do too, but there is also the ‘morality’ component of not eating animals. If you don’t want animals to die to feed you, there’s still dairy and eggs. If you don’t think cattle and chickens should be confined to feed you, get pastured dairy and eggs from cage free chickens.

        1. If you don’t want animals to die to feed you, don’t eat. Eating grains and plants requires preparing farmland which kills all kinds of creatures from insects through reptiles and mammals. Farming destroys ecosystems, so vegan morality is a house of cards. It can be argued that more animals die from farming than factory animal farming.

        2. I agree with you and Piper. Vegan morality is a complete house of cards, which is why they react so strongly when you point it out the flaws.

      5. “Even Vegan, if done right, can be healthy”

        If you mean by taking modern supplements and indulging in the products of modern farming techniques, then sure I guess. I’m still waiting for my first healthy “wild” vegan. I suspect I’ll be waiting for a long time.

    3. Ain’t that the truth!! I’m going to be one hot-looking 90 year old corpse!!

  10. In this study they defined proteins as red meat, processed meat, fish and poultry. So, according to them, 100% meat sausages, common in many European countries, are worse for your health than chicken nuggets or fish fingers? It was ridiculous. In that particular paper, there are many, depending on the disease you’re interested in, there wasn’t a single mention of fresh produce consumption or of carbohydrate intake. I found the whole thing a terrible waste of paper.

  11. Another important distinction might be between CAFO red meat and non-hormone, grass-fed, pasture-raised red meat (or the equivalent with pigs).

    It’s also probably a good idea to get chicken, fish, and seafood in one’s diet, in addition to red meat, as they have different basic nutritional profiles.

  12. When all that is focused on in the diet is the meat portion it really means nothing.

    I would say most sad dieters eat many sandwiches with all sorts of bread and mystery sauces, but then they blame it on the slice of meat? This also goes for Pizzas and all the other “stuff” in the freezer section. Also full of mystery meat and sauces.

  13. Form yesterday’s article:

    “Time Capsule

    One year ago (Mar 10 – Mar 16)

    Will Eating Red Meat Kill You? – Denise Minger rips into the latest study claiming that red meat means certain death.”

    Quite regular research topic indeed 🙂

    1. Denise hasn’t blogged in a while… I wonder if she is off on a vegan raw eating binge somewhere down in Mexico and we have to wait for her to get back on the wagon or something before we can hear from her again!

      1. I think she’s been working on her book! It’s supposed to be released soon, I think. I’m really looking forward to reading it! Denise is the bomb.

  14. “I’m pretty sure white bread buns, strange goopy seed oil sauces, and french fries all play their role, too.” – don’t forget the tomato jam!! 🙂 that’s my personal pet peeve.

  15. If concerned about health effects from bacon due to processing, I recommend cooking slices of completely fresh (not cured in any way) pork belly as you would bacon. They get nice and crisp like bacon slices and will take on any seasoning well. You can often find these already sliced at Korean groceries.

  16. I would just love for all nutritionists, scientists, etc. to accept that there is no way to identify any particular thing that will cause your death, disease, etc. Without being locked in a room for years and having everything consumed documented and measured, there is no way to identify anything. By the way, I’m a scientist, but I realize that you just can’t analyze people in the same way you do things in the labratory.

    1. I totally agree. All we can discover with observational studies are correlations that may or may not have any real significance, so what’s the point? To me, it makes much more sense to encourage people to do their own n=1 experimentation.

  17. if only all this bad press that red meat is getting would create a drop in demand and subsequent drop in price. I would be ecstatic if i could get a good quality slab of beef for a couple bucks a pound!

  18. Mark, on your BACON comment, have you seen Matt LaLonde’s FDA data base presentation and dissection?

    If you haven’t worth a watch.


  19. Anyone have a comment on/explanation for the articles posted today about research concluding that preindustrial populations did suffer from heart disease(Egyptians, Peruvians, Puebloans,Unangans)?
    I assume this doesn’t prove anything about Paleo because those cultures still had access to grains and the like, but I’m not sure…a response would be very much appreciated. Here is a link to one of the articles:

    1. I did just buried in the thread

      It is very interesting that you brought this article up. This article had me perplexed as well. They weren’t just Egyptian mummies but mummies from all around the world

      I will be honest I was a bit worried and felt a little bit of hopelessness that any diet could prevent heart disease, but after doing some digging it seems logical that chronic elevation of cortisol is the suspected link. Cortisol levels raise during times of stress and infection. Cortisol release raises blood sugar levels and insulin resistance. After all your body needs any energy to fight OR flight. The problem is that Chronic elevated levels of cortisol cause high blood pressure, narrowing of the arteries and the damage to our arteries over time. The Atherosclerosis might very well just be because of the damage to the arteries. Our ancestors were probably under a great deal of stress just trying to survive and fighting infection

  20. I like the idea that eating this way will ” Kill me even deader” than other diets.

    The primal diet now preventing… Zombies.

  21. I actually send the lead author of this study an email and received a response… (copied below)

    Hi Sabine…

    I have just read through your recent paper entitled “Meat consumption and mortality – results from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition”.  I have some questions that perhaps you can answer for me.

    I would very much like to know if you would be able to isolate another couple of potential variables, variables that I deem to be quite important to your conclusions.  

    1) Regarding the provenance of the red meat in question.  I know that in the US, the majority of the population that eats red meat, purchases it from grocery stores that stock their shelves with beef from confined animal feeding operations.  These animals are grain-fed, are rapidly ‘matured’, are injected with antibiotics to ward off diseases that they are more susceptible too because of their poor diets and living conditions.  I’m a firm believer that you are what you eat – ate.  Whereas grass-fed cows that are allowed to pasture, are raised organically, are not weaned from their mothers pre-maturely, are not given hormones, and are naturally leaner (because they eat their natural diet) – provide us with healthy meat.  Can you isolate the affect of grain-fed vs. grass-fed red meat?

    2) Also, in the US – we consume copious amounts of highly refined flours (and sugars…and vegetable oils) in the form of breads, pastas, and cereals.  I’d bet that those grain-fed red meat eaters have a bun with their burgers.  Can you isolate the affect that consumption of flours or grains has on cardiovascular health?

    3) How about industrial seed oils?  In the US – 80% of the products in the grocery stores are packaged / processed “food”.  Most cereals, crackers, breads, pre-made meals are made with man-made fats that are high in the PUFA omega-6.  The US is consuming omega-3:omega-6 of about 1:20 – 1:50…. when our natural diet should offer us a ratio of 1:1-1:4 or so…  Omega-6 overconsumption relative to omega-3 is being linked to cardiovascular disease.  Can you isolate this variable from your study?  Meat from grass-fed cows has a much higher omega-3 content than from grain-fed cows.

    I have seen too many studies that try to vilify red meat without addressing what I consider to be the larger problems of refined flours, refined sugar, and the use of industrial seed oils (corn, soy, canola, sunflower – processed vegetable oils).   

    Any insight to these additional variables are highly appreciated.

    Thank you for you time, 

    Meredith Rhodes Carson

    11 March 2013

    Hi Meredith,

    Your questions are very interesting, but impossible to answer in an epidemiological study. Only a small proportion of our study participants buys their meat in a supermarket / grocery store where they tell you how the animals are kept or fed. Additionally, only few of those people really eat a lot of meat. Those who care about where the meat they eat comes from are also those who do not eat large amounts of meat.

    Question 2: We take other dietary habits into account, but once again, tackling the question of whole grain vs refined grain bread etc. is difficult to assess in a large epidemiological study. The same is true for question 3.

    Kind regards,

    1. Thanks for the effort and you had all the questions I usually want to know in these damn studies. Typical response though. I’m not at all surprised.

      1. I sent her a follow up email too… suggesting that because she could be very influential when it comes to diet – that I hope my concerns inform her studies going forward. We’ll see if she’s done with me or not 🙂

    2. “Those who care about where the meat they eat comes from are also those who do not eat large amounts of meat.” — Sabine

      I guess that makes us outliers.

    3. “once again, tackling the question of whole grain vs refined grain bread etc.”

      Um, yeah. Not what we meant, actually.

  22. We are living in the age of mass production of meat, especially beef and chicken. It’s not the meat itself that is bad for you, it’s the way we treat and raise animals that give us the health problems. We give animals life threatening antibiotics and keep them in tiny living areas with no room to roam or graze. These unhealthy ways of raising animals that we eat is only threatening our health and increasing our chances of certain diseases because of the chemicals and antibiotics and unhealthy, unactive lifestyles we are trapping these animals in. Eat meat in moderation and gorge on vegetables and fruits and nuts. Fish is probably the first meat grok ate before we started chowing on our steaks once farming was discovered.

    Good read: The RAVE Diet and Lifestyle
    by Mike Anderson, Watch the DVD too.

    1. Andrew , how about Luigi Coranaro he lived from 1464 until 1566 .
      Quote : The issue was, that I found it to be false: for, though rough and very cold wines, as likewise melons and other fruits, sallad, fish and pork, tarts, garden-stuff, pastry, and the like, were very pleasing to my palate, they disagreed with me .
      …. how advantageous it is to an old man to eat but little! Accordingly, I, who know it, eat but just enough to keep body and soul together; and the things I eat are as follow. First, bread, panado, some broth with an egg in it, or such other good kinds of soup or spoon-meat. Of flesh meat, I eat veal, kid, and mutton. I eat poultry of every kind. I eat partridges, and other birds, such as thrushes.

      He ate 12 ounces of food a day and 14 ounces of young wine , no more and no less as he puts it .
      So do we need veggies ?

      1. If the meat is grass-fed, you’re getting “veggies” through second-hand consumption instead of being the primary ingester.

  23. While I agree with many here that studies like this are without merit, I find that many who believe they are “paleo” eat what appears to be too much red meat. As in they get myopic on grass-fed beef and ignore all other meats. Eat fish. Eat lamb. There’s more than beef. Too much of anything poses risks. Just be balanced.

    1. Hehe, like Inuits eating fish all the time … they should also rebalance their diet, haha 😀

  24. I find it rather interesting that in this study, the consumption of red meat was not linked with disease. To the best of my knowledge, more of the red meat in Europe is or has been pastured than in the US, but I think the proportion of factory farmed products is increasing. It makes a lot of sense that the negative health impacts associated with red meat consumption are due to the vastly different composition of CAFO meat when compared to pastured meat. Moreover, the amount and variety of vegetables and fruits consumed certainly play a role. Replacing the centerpiece of meat in the traditional American dinner probably results in an increase in the plant matter intake, and subsequent health improvements.

  25. My first taste of our own fresh bacon has turned me off to anything chemically cured. With fresh bacon, you can control the amount of salt/pepper/other spices as desired 🙂

  26. Beccolina,
    Yes Heritage Foods USA mail orders and has free shipping if you order a certain amount. Their lard is awesome as well. I have looked around and this has been the best value I have found on the internet for pastured heritage breeds. Apparently it all started to save the endagered heritage turkeys then grew to pork, cattle, lambs, geese and even goat! Grok on!

  27. I’m wondering personally if they controlled for poverty. One of the biggest statistical correlations is to do with income – your health is likely to be worse when it costs more than a week’s wage to see a doctor.

  28. Being a health researcher myself, it’s amazing how much of the true message from studies and scholarly articles makes it to public ears.

    First there is possibilities for bias from the researchers themselves of course, but even when the researchers (authors of these published studies) are entirely objective and truthful about their findings, the results can be taken out of context by the media (who, let’s face it, are after a good story…not a healthy readership?!), and then the person who reads the story can blow findings way out of proportion during “did you know…” time at the water cooler with work-mates.

    The process of knowledge transfer from research to average Joe has become the ultimate game of Chinese whispers

  29. Personally, eating low- fat and cutting down on red meat makes me cranky and tired. Getting my red meat and associated fat= happy mum with time for knitting instead of napping.

  30. Lies, damn lies, and statistics…….Mark Twain

    Eat what YOUR body tells you is good for you….not what a bunch of goofballs paid off by God knows what Commission or Board paid them to say with their skewed “stats”…..remember the “oat bran” era…the “low- fat” era…if you look at old advertising in the 30’s and 40’s they suggested smoking for weight control…later it was soft drinks to stay slim….let’s mot for get the poisonpous NutraSwet craze…( which ,sadly, is still killing people)

    Your body KNOWS what it needs….just listen

  31. I think the authors of the study were very careful not to be misleading about red meat in their interviews, and it shows. Not so hot on sat fat maybe, but they weren’t looking at that. Overall, a B+ effort.

  32. One important caveat regarding eating red meat. The iron in that meat is more easily absorbed than the form found in vegetables. Those individual with hemochromatosis, since their bodies cannot properly process iron, should in fact avoid red meat. Fortunately, white meat and fish present less of a problem.

  33. If you are worried about the iron overload, drink wine with your meal and coffee and or tea after. All 3 interupt the absorbtion of iron in the meal. No citrus or Vit C from supplements or other foods at the same time, it increases iron absorbtion. Now, where is my bottle?

    1. Another way to decrease iron absorption is to take calcium supplement with meat.

  34. Joy from FRIENDS is not the smartest guy on the planet, but he’s got a good point about meat:
    “It is natural for humans to eat meat, okay? We eat the cows, the cows eat the grass, we mow the grass, which makes us hungry for more cows.”


  35. You mention “high temperature” as a possible culprit in cooking. In your opinion, is using a pressure saucepan ok? I like to plunk my frozen lamb chops in there and cook them to glorious tenderness.

  36. Hi
    I am glad I read this post it cleared a big issue up for me. The main one being that it is not the processed meat that probably increases mortality it is that the mor e processed meat you eat correlates with a whole load of other factors that increase your mortality.

    Great post lee

  37. I continually find it amazing that the other interesting finding out of these studies is almost always ignored.

    As Mark mentioned, those that ate no meat had worse health outcomes than those with low/moderate consumption.

    I find this particularly interesting as most read meat avoiders do so for “health” reasons – i.e. they are consciously trying to lead what they consider a “healthy” lifestyle. They might get more exercise, eat less processed foods, more fresh fruit/veg etc.
    In other words, the health bias should be in their favour, yet they had worse outcomes. That seems like an interesting finding that is definitely worth pursuing.

    But I’m not holding my breath for that…

  38. My grandfather used to keep hogs. I have never been able to find bacon or sausage anywhere that tasted like what he made on the farm. Well, except for what his friend’s farm produced.

    I think they kept the good stuff and sold the rest to the grocery stores.

  39. So what exactly is considered ‘high temperature’? If it’s not charred, but browned, is that okay? Braising and slow cooking aren’t always options when I need to throw a quick meal together…

  40. Good source of fresh meat products is very important. Cooking also affects the meat and it is also important to eat meat along with other nutritious food especially vegetables. Meat is still a very important source of various nutrients that our body need to function properly.

  41. I can’t stand most processed meats. They gross me out. We try to always buy fresh cuts whenever possible. Thanks for the interesting article.

  42. Just thought I’d point out that this study didn’t take into account how much sugar or refined carbs each subject was eating. Which on its own more or less invalidates this study. These guys aren’t stupid – even if they don’t agree with Gary Taubes, Robert Lustig etc about sugar and refined carbs, they know about their theories. So to completely ignore sugar/refined carb consumption suggests at best bad science, and at worst a suspicion that the authors of this study set out to incriminate processed meat, and didn’t want anything getting in the way of that goal.

  43. “The risk associated with specific red meat subtypes depended on the animal of origin and cancer subsite; thus, the risk for colon cancer was significantly elevated for higher intake of lamb [IRR(per 5g/d) = 1.07 (95% CI: 1.02-1.13)], whereas the risk for rectal cancer was elevated for higher intake of pork [IRR(per 25g/d) = 1.18 (95% CI: 1.02-1.36)]. Substitution of fish for red meat was associated with a significantly lower risk for colon cancer [IRR(per 25g/d) = 0.89 (95% CI: 0.80-0.99)] but not rectal cancer. Substitution of poultry for red meat did not reduce either risk. This study suggests that the risks for colon cancer and potentially for rectal cancer differ according to the specific red meat subtype consumed.” – From the highly respected Journal of Nutrition, February 20, 2013: Associations between Red Meat and Risks for Colon and Rectal Cancer Depend on the Type of Red Meat Consumed.

  44. It was an interesting study. Personally, I always try to buy fresh meat I don’t trust what they put into the processed meats.

  45. I agree with you Isabel. There is tons of empirical evidence to support your position as well. The “China Study” lays this case out exquisitely. Very objectively, the study draws comparisons between the Western diet and long term degenerative diseases. The meat lobby is so strong, they’ve got us all convinced. We forget we were all peasants at one point, and meat was scarce. It was not as central to our diet as it is today, but merely an intermittent, special form of protein we enjoyed when mature pasture animals were slaughtered or we hunted.