- Human body views red meat as a foreign invader and launches an immune response?
- Red meat causes cancer?
- Is consumption of red meat connected to other diseases exacerbated by chronic inflammation, such as atherosclerosis and type 2 diabetes?
Hmmm… seems serious?
Here’s the link to the article that raised all these questions: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/11316316/Red-meat-triggers-toxic-immune-reaction-which-causes-cancer-scientists-find.html
First of all, the article does not reflect the scientific findings, but obviously biased journalist’s opinion about the study.
It is even explicitly stated by the researchers: “The final proof in humans will be much harder to come by” … and it may never be found, obviously, since we’ve been eating animals for millions of years, and in all this time we’ve been thriving on all sorts of other natural foods as well. At least until industrial revolution and emergance of processed junk – which could be more accurately pointed out as the real “toxic trigger” (reference to the article).
Not so fast! Isn’t our digestion track more herbivore like, rather than carnivore?
Let’s make one thing clear: I have no “special feelings” for meat – if i neglect my new found love for organ meats – in regards to any other source of natural food.
It is clear people have, throughout time, evolved their dietary practices to include different types of foods, previously not eaten (let’s call us omnivores, or superomnivores, as John S. Allen did in his book The Omnivourus Mind).
List goes a long way, from chillies 6000 years ago, to grains even further back, fermented foods, dairy, … and meat, of course. A part of this adaptation is explained by in scientific circles generally accepted “hungry brain” hypotheses, which shows with high level of certinty, that our digestive tract modified in a way (shortened and became less energy consuming), to support necessary brain growth (from herbivoric 400-600 cc to omnivoric 1400 cc) and consumption of energy denser foods (this came with cooking). In layman’s terms:
We are most definitely not cows, destined to eat (graze) all day on nutritionally poor (raw) foods. Last generation that did that was vastly inferior from evolutionary standpoint and died out long time ago.
Ok, so instead of calculating all the nutrients you get from vegetables etc., spending a lot of time, money and energy to ensure adequate nutrition, we could choose to compensate with a nice piece of free range meat. Well, it’s just that the article above definitely changes the portion of it, right?
When it comes to meat (or natural food in general), quality is likely to pass quantity, at least in most cases. Home grown, local and minimally processed (to avoid saying organic), seems like the best way to go about our food.
On the other hand, determening the proportions of certain foods we eat on this kind of articles can be troublesome. If we are accusing and limiting consumption of animal foods because of perceived “toxins”, plants should not be exempt.
You see, in nature, animals can defend themselves by bite and fleeing, plants can’t do that. So they’ve evolved more spohisticated methods of defence against predators (yes, for plants, we humans are also “predators”): visual, animal guard, physical and most importantly, chemical – here I am talking about toxins that negatively affect our nervous system, hormone regulation and metabolism (the gut and digestion – absorption of certain essential nutrients).
So, should (raw) vegetables, nuts, seeds and tubers also be warned against? Are we supposed to limit our consumption of these foods (even chocolate), because of their natural defences which are harmful to us? Poison is a matter of volume. Nobody here advocates an “all chicken” or an “all celery” diet.
Toxins in food are »strength training« for our immune system – they provide a stimuli to which humans can adapt, become more resilient and increase variety in our diets.
Breast milk – example of a natural “toxin”.
A great example of »toxins as a strength training« analogy is breast milk – nature’s perfect food for humans, we would probably agree. Everything a newborn needs to grow and develop is supposedly abundant in this »elixir« of ours.
Michael Pollan wrote in his latest book (Cooked: A Natural history of Transformation): »For years nutritionists were mistified by the presence in the mother’s milk of certain complex carbohydrates called oligosaccharides, which the infant lacked the necessary enzymes to digest«.
Did nature made a mistake? Why would the mother produce nutrients her baby can not even metabolize? It turnes out the oligosaccharides are there to feed not the baby but certain of its intestinal microbes – so, kind of like they are training his immune system, challenging him to produce specific enzymes and bacteria, necessary for propper digestion of important foods later in life.
In closing, thank god we didn’t limit our consumption of breast milk, because it contains a »toxic« compound.
Read more: 5 facts about (red) meat.
Mario Sambolec, dr. Feelgood