If you've paid any attention to nutritional headlines lately, you've noticed that there happens to be a
damning red meat. But there's a difference this time... This
one doesn't blame red meat for causing colon cancer. And it doesn't point the finger at the delicious dinner for its cholesterol or saturated fat
content. In fact, the study authors readily admit that saturated fat has recently been shown, through meta-analyses of high quality studies, to have
no association with cardiovascular disease (1)
. And since dietary
cholesterol has never, and never will, cause heart disease in humans, the study authors take this down a new, long-shot-of-a rabbit hole.
The Cliff-Notes version goes like this: If red meat doesn't cause heart disease through saturated fat or cholesterol, there must be another factor
explaining the "vast" amount of data associating red meat consumption with CVD. Researchers, in an attempt to grasp straws, find their rabbit hole
of sorts. Dietary Carnitine, from red meat, gets gobbled up by your gut bacteria which produces TMA (trimethylamine). Eventually, TMA makes its way
to your liver where it's converted to TMAO (trimethlamine oxide. According to the researchers, elevated TMAO in the bloodstream causes a cholesterol
transport problem that leads to cholesterol deposits in the arterial wall... hence, Cardiovascular Disease.
Before dissecting the study in all its fallacies, there are a few things that, on the surface, quite literally seem to dismantle it from its very
foundations. For instance:
The entire "Red meat, through TMAO blood concentration, causes heart disease" fails because of the simple fact that TMAO levels following red meat
consumption are relatively low compared to other "heart healthy" foods. As Chris Masterjohn points out in his
, this chart from a 1999 study
below explains this very
Control subjects actually had higher concentrations of TMAO circulating than did those eating red meat. Even more damning is the fact that many whole
fruits and vegetables yielded higher TMAO levels than red meat, including carrots, peas, potatoes and tomatoes. A look at the following graph gives
even more contradictory data:
Even though fish is considered to be "heart healthy," it blows red meat out of the water when examining TMAO concentrations post consumption.
While these revelations alone should be enough to put this ridiculous study to bed, the ridiculousness continues...
If you recall earlier, the study authors were searching for a factor in meat that causes heart disease because of the vast amount of data in support
of the "red meat causes CVD" theory. The first line of the abstract is as follows
The high level of meat consumption in the developed world is linked to CVD risk, presumably owing to the large content of saturated fats and
cholesterol in meat
The researchers, unfortunately, are operating on a false notion. The TMAO hypothesis is the result of confirmation bias. They 'know' that red meat
causes CVD. As a result, when they're presented with data that says saturated fat and cholesterol don't cause heart disease, they're determined to
find the cause to why red meat causes CVD because they believe that red meat, indeed, does just that. The sad truth is... they've fallen victim to
the cardinal no-no of scientific research...
ASSOCIATION DOES NOT EQUAL CAUSATION
The only real reason these researchers are pursuing this hypothesis down such a rabbit hole is because they've confused cause with association. Do
morning shows make the sun rise? No. Do cops and first responders cause automobile accidents? No. But they're associated with each other. Red
meat consumers tend to be less healthy than those who do no consume red meat. This doesn't mean that red meat causes unhealthiness. The following
is from Anthony Colpo's blog:
–The primary source of trans fats are refined vegetable fats (you know, the same fats our idiotic health authorities told us were “heart
healthy”, then quietly backed away from when mounting evidence showed otherwise).
–Smoking, meanwhile, involves ingestion of noxious gases from nicotine-containing products, primarily cigarettes. In my four-plus decades on this
crazy blue ball called Earth, I’ve yet to see someone roll a topside steak, light it up, and draw on it like a Marlboro. In other words, red meat
has nothing to do with smoking, and to blame the effects of the latter on the former is sheer idiocy.
–Any claim that red meat intake causes physical inactivity is similarly absurd. In fact, given its high concentrations of B-vitamins, creatine,
iron, and carnitine (critical for energy production, idiotic statements about CHD from clueless researchers notwithstanding), we would reasonably
expect red meat intake to facilitate, rather than impede, strenuous exercise.
–There is no reliable evidence whatsoever to support any notion that angina, diabetes and high blood pressure are caused by red meat intake. They
are, however, promoted by smoking, inactivity, and trans fat intake, all of which increased among the NHS subjects along with rising red meat intakes.
These ailments are also strongly linked to such factors as high refined carbohydrate intakes, stress, ambient pollution, and high bodily iron
That's right... people who eat the most red meat, also tend to partake in the most unhealthy lifestyle behaviors. That doesn't mean that eating red
meat is unhealthy. Yet, the authors and researchers of the study at hand hold this ridiculous hypothesis to be gospel.
This one is simple. You can't use genetically altered mice, that are bread to develop CVD on normal mice chow, to determine cause in humans.
That's it (there was more but I lost it and i need to go to bed).
I'll leave you with this.... at the end of the study, there were a few disclosures:
Z.W. and B.S.L. are named as co-inventors on pending patents held by the Cleveland Clinic relating to cardiovascular diagnostics and have the
right to receive royalty payments for inventions or discoveries related to cardiovascular diagnostics from Liposciences. W.H.W.T. received research
grant support from Abbott Laboratories and served as a consultant for Medtronic and St. Jude Medical. S.L.H. and J.D.S. are named as co-inventors on
pending and issued patents held by the Cleveland Clinic relating to cardiovascular diagnostics and therapeutics patents. S.L.H. has been paid as a
consultant or speaker by the following companies: Cleveland Heart Lab., Esperion, Liposciences, Merck & Co. and Pfizer. He has received research funds
from Abbott, Cleveland Heart Lab., Esperion and Liposciences and has the right to receive royalty payments for inventions or discoveries related to
LOL @ Patents and Royalties