If You Love Steak, Read On

Filed under: General Health, Nutrition

A colleague of mine forwarded an article from the Wall Street Journal about a new study from the Harvard School of Public Health. This new study suggests that the problems long associated with red meat consumption, are actually from the processed cuts of red meat: bacon, sausage, hot dogs and cold cuts and not from unprocessed meat like steak. Shocker I know.

While it is amazing that is has taken this long for something like this to be truly analyzed, actually separating processed versions of red meat from things like steak and other non-processed cuts has actually provided the proof we have all known to be there: that the real problem with red meat and heart disease is from processed shit. I bet it would make even more of a difference if they separated conventional red meat from grass-fed.

They even acknowledge that both processed and unprocessed red meat contain saturated fat, and that it does not seem to play a role in the association of processed meat to heart disease. At least some things are catching on. The sad part about this article is that they blame all of the problem of processed meats and its link to heart disease on sodium. Claiming that sodium increases blood pressure, which is only true in certain people.

Fortunately the article redeems itself a bit by mentioning that processed meats contain large amounts of nitrates/nitrites, which have been shown to interfere with the health of blood vessels and the body’s ability to process glucose. But that is a mere quick mention, as the focus is clearly on sodium. Below is my favorite quote from the article:

Nevertheless, Dr. Eckel said, “I was amazed to see the differences in sodium content” between the two categories of meat.” It suggests that people with high blood pressure “might need an [additional] drug” to control their condition if they eat a lot of processed meat,” he said.

Seriously? His advice and/or thought process is that people need another drug? Are you kidding me? There are other treatment protocols besides drugs. How about just eating less processed meat? Or eating more fruits and vegetables, or drinking more pomegranate juice (which has been shown to lower systolic blood pressure by up to 20%), or exercising?

That truly pisses me off that so many doctors’ (not all) first inclination is to treat every problem with a drug. Then they treat the problem created by one drug, with another drug, it is a vicious cycle. There is a time and a place for pharmaceuticals, but it is not the only option!

A perfect example is a woman I know who asked to have her sub-particles of her LDL and HDL checked, as she had read that they can be more significant risk factors than just the overall numbers alone. She is right of course. Her cardiologist said that wouldn’t help because there is no way to change particle type. Which actually translates to there is no drug he can prescribe that has been shown to affect particle size, so there is nothing that could be done about it, even though it is well established that diet plays a very large role in particle size! I digress.

Coming back to the article at hand, unfortunately this study was only a meta-analysis, which did not contain any random controlled trials that actually show acute effects, not just correlations, but it is definitely a step, however small, in the right direction. Hopefully they will realize that the problem goes far beyond sodium, and is actually about the foods you eat, not just a nutrient they may possess.

On a interesting aside, there is a new hot dog I was introduced to by a company called Let’s be Frank. They have 100% grass-fed beef hot dogs from California pasture-raised cattle, without any antibiotics, hormones, steroids, nitrates, nitrites, etc and they are lower in fat, calories and sodium than traditional hot dogs! They are also absolutely delicious, check them out.

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Posted on May 20th, 2010 by Brian St. Pierre


  1. natalie Says:

    doctors prescribe pills to themselves in business.

  2. Danny Says:


  3. Chris Says:

    Brian, I hope you don’t mind — I posted that quote to my facebook — along with a link back to the blog.

    Its scary to hear how many docs’ first reaction is drug-based rather than addressing-the-cause based…

    Anyways, I’m dropping by CP to observe in a couple weeks before the Perform Better seminar so unfortunately I won’t be able to meet you there. All the best at school!!

  4. Stuff You Should Read: 5/26/10 | EricCressey.com Says:

    [...] If You Like Steak, Read On – This great blog from Brian St. Pierre highlights some recent research that helps to bury the myth that all red meat is bad for you. [...]

  5. Becky Williamson Says:

    Hi Brian,

    Thank you SO much for writing this post! My colleague Steve Payne just put a link to it on my Facebook page. Like you, I’m a fitness professional, and I find myself time and again defending beef with some of my clients. They’ll shy away from red meat only to eat fries and onion rings with their fast food fried chicken sandwiches. Huh?
    I also agree with you that there is a time and place for pharmaceuticals, but an improved diet and regular exercise is the best medicine for a lot of overweight, out of shape Americans.
    Thanks for writing a great post.

    Becky Williamson

  6. Stuff You Should Read: 5/26/10 Says:

    [...] If You Like Steak, Read On – This great blog from Brian St. Pierre highlights some recent research that helps to bury the myth that all red meat is bad for you. [...]

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