Do It Yourself Metabolics for Meat Eaters
By Joel Fuhrman, M.D.www.drfuhrman.com
Why Use Good Science To Help Design Your Diet When A Handy $59 Internet Questionnaire Is Available!
Honorary Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) board member and internet health guru Joe Mercola, D.O., became the most public member of the WAPF contingency after previous guru Stephen Byrnes died of a stroke at the age of 45.
Dr. Mercola claims that consuming pasteurized milk (instead of raw milk) causes autism, and that coconut oil kills viruses and is the secret to weight loss, detoxification, and the reversal of heart disease. (And he has been reprimanded and advised by the FDA to cease making these fraudulent health claims about his coconut oil and another “health” product—chlorella.)
Mercola’s web site advocates that people fill out a detailed questionnaire (which costs $59) to help him determine which of three “types” they fall into. Instead of using blood type, eye color, shoe size, date of birth of your firstborn, or other silliness that alternative health entrepreneurs use to decide how much meat is right for your health, Mercola simply asks questions such as: “How do you feel when you eat meat?” and “Do you like dark meat or white meat? “ (This is like asking a smoker if he feels better after he smokes to determine how much smoking is good for his health.)
He divides people into three categories: protein types (meat lovers), carbo types (veggie and grain lovers), and mixed types (everyone else). Mercola claims that to feel great and avoid disease and obesity, you must know your unique type. Mercola does not think that avoiding meat is a good idea for most people because their metabolic type indicates that red meat is needed and good for them. He explains that while the Atkins diet is good because of its recognition of the glycemic index of food, it is not as good as his diet, which takes into account your metabolic (self) typing.
Confusion Of Ideas
Mercola’s views on diet and health fail Nutrition 101; too much science contradicts him. But not everything he says is incorrect. He correctly points out that most vegetarians may not have excellent health because of their overdependence on grains. The literature is abundant with evidence that demonstrates that the foods with the best correlation with longer life and resistance against later-life diseases are vegetables, beans, raw seeds, fruit, and raw nuts.
Notice that grains are not included on the list. Eliminating animal products and continuing the consumption of processed grain foods is not a recipe for health or longevity. The bottom line is most vegetarians are unhealthy for the same reason most non-vegetarians are unhealthy; they eat too much processed food. Whole grains are not nutrient-rich foods. They can form a minor part of your diet, but when they are baked, fried, toasted, shot out of cannons, or otherwise processed or adulterated, they become low-nutrient junk foods that are powerfully disease promoting.
There is good science to back up Mercola’s contention that some people are not going to get all of their nutritional needs met on a vegan diet and will need to add supplements to make their diet complete or even eat small amounts of animal products.
There are two very critical areas where Mercola departs from universally accepted science. First, if you add the large amounts of animal products he recommends (including red meat and butter)—and especially the large amounts he recommends for his “protein-type”—you will have a diet that powerfully promotes heart disease and cancer. There is no genetic “type” that has immunity from such a high-saturated- fat, disease-causing diet.
All Americans, not just some, develop atherosclerosis when they eat a diet so high in animal products. Over 90% of Americans eventually develop atherosclerosis and hypertension from the low intake of unprocessed vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, and seeds, and high intake of animal products. Diets like the ones Mercola recommends—especially if they include processed foods—also lead to premature death from heart attacks or stroke.
The second critical departure is that his metabolic typing questionnaire is not an accurate way to determine a person’s nutritional needs. When he advises his “protein type” to eat a diet in which most calories are supplied by animal products, he is appealing to that person’s food preferences and addictions. The more you crave something and the worse you feel when you stop consuming it, the more likely that you are addicted to it and that it is harming you, not helping. Encouraging people who are addicted to meat or other animal products to eat more of them will lead to even shorter life spans.
No Need To Be Vegan
Keep in mind, I am not arguing that a person who eats no animal products (a vegan) will be healthier or will lead a longer life than one who eats small amounts of animal products (such as a small amount of fish or eggs). What I am pointing out is that as animal products increase in the diet (and natural plant foods are forced off the plate),the modern diseases that kill over 80 percent of Americans (heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes) will occur in greater and greater likelihood in every genetic type.
My review of over 60,000 articles in the scientific literature supports the conclusion that if animal products are consumed they should constitute no more than 10% of total caloric intake. Remember, animal products are high in calories and very low in nutrients-per-calorie compared with vegetables. The higher the animal product consumption compared to a vegetable-based diet, the lower the nutrient intake. The typical American gets 40% of total calories from animal products (those on the Zone and South Beach diets get 60%, and Atkins adherents get 80%). Mercola’s high protein type diet is in the 60-80% range. Diets like these are extremely high in dangerous fats and extremely low in nutrients and phytonutrients.
Mercola and other adherents of the “saturated-fat-is-good-for-you” myth produce articles with supposedly scientific references. But the writers either quote the same bunch of people (each other) and ignore a ton of modern reputable research, or they distort what is said in legitimate studies in order to hold on to the myth that saturated fat is okay and not related to heart disease. These fiction writers all use the same distorted logic when they contend that the consumption of trans fats is responsible for heart attacks, not saturated fats. Trans fats have been processed to saturate their carbon bonds so they mimic saturated fats, but just because trans fats are bad or worse does not make saturated fats good.
Mercola tries to make his bad advice sound scientific. He states:
"Some of you might be watching your weight and be rather hesitant to add butter into your diet. Have no fear. About 15% of the fatty acids in butter are of the short and medium chain variety which are NOT stored as fat in the body, but are used by the vital organs for energy."
Of course, you have to buy the special butter that Mercola recommends, the “good quality” butter. In much the same way, he contends that you can eat meat and not increase your chances of disease by eating “grass-fed” beef. These arguments remind me of a patient who told me that he wouldn’t get lung cancer because he used “high quality” tobacco, grown without pesticides.
These laughable “good quality” exceptions can’t withstand scientific scrutiny. To make these arguments, you have to overlook all the data that show that it is not merely the barbecued meat or processed or commercial meats that are linked to heart attack and cancer, it is other important features that are present in grass-fed beef as well.
Colon Cancer Connections
Let’s review just a few of the scientific studies on colon cancer.
A study examining meat consumption over many years prior to the diagnosis of cancer illustrates that prolonged high consumption of red and processed meat increases (more than doubles) the risk of colon cancer. In this study, even two to three ounces of red meat per day increased risks significantly.1
Two other studies identify the mechanism by which red meat promotes colon cancer. Since red meat contains no fiber, it remains in the gut much longer than fiber-filled foods. The studies describe the biochemical effects of this slower transit time, including heightened exposure to red meat’s nitrogenous metabolites. In other words, red meat’s slower transit time in the bowel promotes prolonged exposure to these carcinogenic compounds (naturally occurring N-nitroso compounds) when a larger percentage of the diet is made of animal products rather than plant materials. Another important mechanism reported was the high haem content of red meat, because dietary haem increased cytolytic (cell-killing) activity and colonic epithelial proliferation, thus explaining why red meat is more colon cancer promoting compared to fish or chicken.2
Understanding the ingredients of a nutrient-sufficient diet is critical for the health seeker. Longevity and disease protection are the ultimate goals of dietary advice; but when you settle for second class advice, you doom yourself not only to a shorter life, but to a lower quality life—especially in your later years, as you suffer with medical problems that could have been avoided.
1. Chao A, Thun JT, Connell CJ, et al. Meat consumption and risk of colorectal cancer. JAMA 2005;293: 172-182.
2. Sesink AL, Termont DS, Kleibeuker JH, Van der Meer R. Red meat and colon cancer: dietary haem-induced colonic cytotoxicity and epithelial hyperproliferation are inhibited by calcium. Carcinogenesis 2001;22(10):1653-9. Hughes R, Cross AJ, Pollock JR, Bingham S. Dose-dependent effect of dietary meat on endogenous colonic Nnitrosation. Carcinogenesis 2001;22(1):199-202.