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Check out this study (click on study), released today.

Those who eat more red meat (including processed meats) may have shortened life expectancies, researchers reported in a massive study of aging Americans. “Greater consumption of red and processed meat was associated with an increased risk of mortality, particularly from cancer or cardiovascular causes,” Rashmi Sinha, Ph.D., of the National Cancer Institute, and colleagues reported in the March 23 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine. On the other hand, eating more white meat slightly decreased total and cancer mortality.

The researchers focused on a half-million people between the ages of 51 and 70. Over 10 years, eating the equivalent of a quarter-pound hamburger daily gave men in the study a 22 percent higher risk of dying of cancer and a 27 percent higher risk of dying of heart disease. That’s compared to those who ate the least red meat, just 5 ounces per week. Women who ate large amounts of red meat had a 20 percent higher risk of dying of cancer and a 50 percent higher risk of dying of heart disease than women who ate less. Wow, 50 percent?

Red meat comprised all types of beef and pork, but also included bacon, hot dogs and some other processed products. Processed meat included lunch meats, sausages, and cold cuts made with red or white meat. White meat, meanwhile, included chicken, turkey, fish, canned tuna and processed meats made from those sources.

There are a couple things to consider here. First off, eating too much of any processed food will contribute to disease and kill you more quickly, sure. You’re ingesting chemicals that are foreign to the body and difficult to process, and these chemicals are stored in your fat cells, contributing to toxic load/free radical damage. Lunch meats, cured meats, sausages, and yes, the beloved bacon contain preservatives, high sodium levels, and other various chemicals.

Also, eating more red meat = higher exposure to hormones and antibiotics. I’m not even going to get into The Great Saturated Fat Debate here. Your brain is something like 70 percent saturated fat and your cell membranes need it to stay permeable (read: allowing nutrients in). I wish everyone would get over the fear of fat.

Anywho, those who consumed white meat lived longer. A couple things here. First off, in my experience, those who eat more chicken and fish and are making an effort to reduce red meat are probably generally trying to be healthier, and are therefore paying closer attention to their diets and are more likely to clean up other areas of their lives, such as making an effort to exercise more, reduce junk food, etc. This is often the case with vegetarians. They may have lower overall disease rates because they make an effort to have healthier lifestyles than those who are eating more meat, including processed and non-organic forms. Also, grain-fed beef is higher in omega-6 fatty acids, which contribute to inflammation and cardiovascular disease. Organic, grass fed beef has a higher omega 3 fatty acid profile, and this is how nature intended it. Cattle aren’t designed to eat grain!

Secondly, fish is high in heart-protective omega fatty acids, and white meat overall is lower in fat and calories. Beef and lamb are high in iron and zinc and omega 3s when they are grass fed and organic. I’d bet that the subjects in this study were consuming a lot of non-organic grain fed beef, a lot of it processed. This is a total testimonial to always eat organic. Grain fed beef contributes to disease: in humans, in animals, and environmentally.

Limiting meat consumption overall is not a bad thing. Limit red meat to once a week, and focus on chicken, fish, and protein legumes such as lentils and beans. And ALWAYS eat organic, grass fed red meats.

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