“The Harvard “red meat” study was not only fatally flawed from the outset, it offered reckless (and scientifically unsound) advice.”
Are beef eaters doomed to an early death?
A recent Harvard study, accompanied by some unduly alarmist articles in the press, found that the consumption of red meat is associated with higher mortality rates from cardiovascular disease and cancer. The study recommends substituting “healthy” protein sources such as fish, poultry, nuts, and legumes to reduce mortality.
We see a number of big problems with this study.
First, the study was conducted over a very long period of time (28 years for women, 22 years for men) by sending out food questionnaires every four years. Self-reporting, much less every four years, is not a reliable method of data gathering.
Second, and even more importantly, the study did not differentiate between organic, grass-fed beef, and non-organic, CAFO-raised beef. As Dr. Joseph Mercola points out, the nutritive value of the each is very different!
Because of the conditions and the grain-based feed used in factory farms, conventional beef may contain over twenty times the amount of omega-6 fatty acids (associated with arthritis, chronic inflammation, and cancer) than healthful omega-3 fatty acids (which help blood circulation, reduce inflammation, and strengthen the heart). By contrast, grass-fed beef typically has nearly seven times more omega-3s than omega-6s.
In fact, eating moderate amounts of grass-fed beef for even four weeks will give you healthier levels of essential fats, according to a 2011 study in the British Journal of Nutrition. Healthy volunteers who ate grass-fed meat increased their blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids and decreased their level of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids.
Grass-fed beef is far healthier than grain-fed beef for a number of reasons. For example, it has four times the amount of complete complex vitamin E than grain-fed beef. Complete complex vitamin E deficiencies have been linked with diabetes, immune disorders, Parkinson’s disease, eye diseases, and lung and liver diseases, so eating grass-fed beef would help prevent that deficiency. And this is just one factor among many. Grass-fed beef is lower in total fat, higher in beta-carotene, thiamin, riboflavin, calcium, magnesium, and potassium, and higher in CLA, a potential cancer fighter.