How to have your red meat — and eat it, too

Sometimes, reading health news is an exercise in disappointment. I couldn’t begin to tell you how many times a headline has gotten my hopes up… only to stomp on them a few lines later.

For example, I recently came across the Medscape headline: “A proinflammatory diet contributes to colorectal cancer risk in both sexes.”

Now, that’s exactly the kind of headline that would have me jumping out of my seat. I thought for a brief second that the traditional medical community finally had an “A-HA!” moment and came to their senses.

(Not to mention, I’ve been preaching the benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet for over two decades…)

Those of us working on the nutritional end of things consider inflammation to be the root cause of every illness — and we have for a very long time. So to see a mainstream health headline finally touting one of our most fundamental principles as a forgone conclusion is a very big deal.

But alas, if it looks too good to be true, it usually is. And needless to say, I didn’t make it very far before stumbling on the sad truth lurking behind this deceptively progressive piece of news.

Because here’s what these researchers consider “pro-inflammatory”: a diet rich in red, processed, and organ meat. And, they claim, it increases the risk of colorectal cancer in both men and women.

Honestly… how many times do I have to have this conversation?! Of course meat that’s been processed — especially in the way that America processes the majority of its livestock — is a tragedy both for the animal and for our health. We know that.

Meat that comes from animals raised under humane and natural conditions, however — from cows that are pastured, grass-fed (and finished), and not pumped full of antibiotics, growth hormones, or GMO corn — is some of the healthiest food on the planet. (And ultimately, it also uses less resources than commercial crop growing… something that the anti-meat contingent conveniently forgets to mention.)

I could go on (in fact, I do, in Chapter 7 of my latest book, The A-List Diet. I lay out the benefits of each animal protein and what you should watch out for when purchasing meat). But let me step off of my soapbox for a moment so we can take a closer look at this study…

Researchers drew data from two famous cohorts — the Health Professionals Follow-up Study and the Nurses’ Health Study — to look at associations between diet and colorectal cancer. All told, the study featured more than 121,000 subjects, who participated for more than 25 years.

They assessed the inflammatory potential of 18 different food groups based on their relationship with three common biomarkers: IL-6, CRP, and TNF-alpha. And based on their findings, an “anti-inflammatory” diet is rich in leafy greens, dark yellow veggies, coffee, and tea. And low in processed meats, red meat, refined grains, and sugar-sweetened drinks.

Results showed that subjects with highly inflammatory diets faced significant increases in colorectal cancer risk. (By as much as 48 percent in the case of obese and overweight men.)

This is, at the very least, a step in the right direction. If only because it further supports that inflammation is an essential health consideration… and acknowledges that your diet has everything to do with it.

But while the mainstream medical community continues to puzzle over exactly what this means on a practical level, I suggest that you take your nutritional advice from people who actually know what they’re talking about. Because at the end of the day, nutrition and the role it plays in health is a lot more complex than studies like this would have you believe.

I tried to explain this concept and make it easier to understand in my book, The A-List Diet (which is soon to be out in paperback, by the way). In fact, effective inflammation control is one of the main perks that sets this plan apart from the rest.

You won’t find a better ally in the fight to lose weight and prevent disease. And you certainly won’t have to give up steak or burgers to get the best benefits it has to offer.