This post is part of an on-going review of the recommendations of celebrity doctor Joseph Mercola,
M.D. D.O. For an overview, see Monday's post.
Keep in mind, I am not arguing that a vegan diet is healthier or will lead to a longer life compared to someone who eats a small amount of animal products, such as a little fish or eggs in their diet. But I am arguing that as the amount of animal products increases in a diet-style forcing natural plant foods off the plate to become a smaller percentage of total caloric intake, the modern diseases that kill over 80 percent of Americans (heart disease, stroke, cancer, 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 animal products if consumed should be held to a maximum of ten percent of total caloric intake, reduced from 40 percent in America today and certainly significantly reduced from 60 percent on the Zone and South Beach diets and 80 percent of total caloric intake on the Atkins type diets, and somewhere in between these level on Dr. Mercola's high protein type diet. Dr. Mercola's recommendation are somewhat similar to the Weston Price Foundation, another group that advocates a diet rich in meats based on distorted science and old scientific views that have been disproven by the preponderance of the evidence. The difference is that the Weston Price Foundation does not use a questionnaire to determine if you are the type that deserves a diet rich in high saturated fat animal products, they just teach that everybody is healthier eating a diet chock full of animal products.
Dr. Mercola and the Weston Price Foundation flood the internet with their saturated fat is good for you message. They produce articles with supposedly scientific references that either quote the same bunch of people (each other), ignore a ton of modern reputable research, or distort what was said in the study, claiming saturated fat is okay and not related to heart disease. They all use the same distorted logic that it is the consumption of trans fats that are responsible for heart attacks, not saturated fats. They didn't inform the reader that the reason trans fats are bad is because they have been processed to saturate their carbon bonds so they behave in the body as saturated fats. Because trans fats are bad or worse, does not make saturated fats good. It is similar to the twisted logic of the Weston Price crowd who present the work of this dentist who traveled around the world showing that populations who did not eat processed foods had good teeth, to argue that because some of these cultures ate lots of animal products that must mean diets rich in animal products are good. Because processed foods, sugar, corn syrup and white flour are bad, does not make a diet high in animal products lifespan promoting. Weston Price used some very short-lived people as examples of good health, just because their teeth looked good. Fortunately, we know more today than we did in the early 1900's. We know which foods contain the full spectrum of nutrients that resist aging and we know that the diseases that afflict modern civilization are not the consequence of aging; they are the consequence of nutritional ignorance. And we also know that saturated fat raises cholesterol and is an important cause of heart disease, but not the only cause. Too bad so much nutritional ignorance is promoted on the internet, in books and in the media, it only leads to more people being confused.
Quoting Dr. Mercola's website:
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.
Once you get into these high zones of animal product intake there is no genetic type that is not going to have their health damaged by such a high consumption of animal products. There is an overwhelming amount of evidence in the scientific literature to support this (about 1500 references alone in my book, Eat To Live), but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Dr. Mercola's comments on the studies linking meat to colon cancer is to protect yourself with high quality grass-fed beef or high quality butter. I remember once a patient told me that they can't get lung cancer because they use high quality tobacco, farmed without pesticides, that's a good one!
People who are fixated to their rigid views, especially addicts will look to rationalize their behavior even if the excuse can't withstand scientific scrutiny. Dr. Mercola has to overlooks all the data that shows that it is not merely the barbequing of meat, processed or commercial meats that are linked to heart attack and cancer it is other important features that are also present in grass-feed beef.
Let's review a few of these scientific studies on colon cancer to illustrate:
Chao A. Thun JT. Connell CJ. Et al. Meat Consumption and Risk of Colorectal Cancer JAMA. 2005;293:172-182.
This study concludes that 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 or processed meats a day increase risks significantly.
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 N-nitrosation.Carcinogenesis. 2001; 22(1):199-202
These two studies go into the mechanism via which red meat promotes colon cancer. Since red meat contains no fiber, it remains in the gut much longer than fiber-filled foods.They describe the biochemical effects of this slower transit time, including heightened exposure to red meat's nitrogenous metabolites. In other words, red meats' 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.
Heart disease also occurs not just because of the processing of meats or the fact that beef is grain fed and not grass fed, but because of other intrinsic properties of animal foods, and the fact that we require a significant exposure to a full symphony of natural antioxidants and phytochemicals in unprocessed plant matter that we are not getting as animal products increase and the percentage of vegetation decreases.
Tomorrow, DiseaseProof will feature a look at the real cause of Dr. Atkins' death, while on Friday I will discuss the healthy way to integrate some meat into your diet.