The Meat and Butter Diet

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.

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Comments (12) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Gerry Pugliese - March 20, 2007 12:48 PM

Check out this post for Dr. Fuhrman's thoughts on many of these comments:

Dr. Fuhrman on Dietary Misinformation

Bret - April 18, 2007 2:04 PM

It seems that misinformation, misunderstanding, irrationality, and undisguised bias is common both amongst vegetarians and omnivores. Dr. Fuhrman is obviously an intelligent and concerned individual who strives to promote health through proper lifestyle choices, and for this I commend him. But his apparently blind devotion to vegetarianism and/or veganism, causes him to not only criticize organizations such as the Weston A. Price Foundation, but to resort to occasionally undignified insults as well.
Weston A. Price's work titled "Nutrition and Physical Degeneration" is a fascinating, and eye opening glimpse into the lives of people who were essentially untouched by the trade and influences of modern society. They lived the way their people had always lived. I've often seen the work criticized as "unscientific," but never really understood such observations. Dr. Price observed groups of racially identical people with different lifestyles - those who lived a primitive lifestyle as their ancestors had done for millenia, and those who rejected the "old ways" and lived with more modern influences. He concluded from his observations that the primitive groups were vibrantly healthy with only rare incidences of even such common maladies as cavities, while the modernized peoples, who subsisted on modern foods such as white flour and sugar, were unhealthy with rampant disease and cavities.
I could go on and on about the misconceptions surrounding the book from those who have obviously not even read the work. It has convinced me of the necessity and health sustaining properties of whole, minimally processed foods more than anything. Weston Price and the WAP Foundation do advocate consuming animal products as necessary for optimal health. But WAP also seems to respect the choice to abtain from meat eating, and offers some good advice for the preparation of certain plant based foods, particularly grains, legumes, and nuts/seeds.
I would recommend to anyone, vegetarian or otherwise, to investigate the work of Weston Price and decide for themselves. I have not reviewed anywhere close to 60,000 peer reviewed publications, but can with certainty state that regardless of what studies "indicate", few if any can "prove" anything. Anyone that tells you differently should be viewed with suspicion. Much of what we know about nutrition, even today, is based on theory and should be approached with an open, yet skeptical, mind. I wish all of you good luck in your research and good health.

parhatsathid - January 10, 2008 11:20 AM

Taking too much saturated fats is not good and some studies do support that fact. French ate more fats than U.S. but their consumption of trans fat are much lower, while polyphenols in wine which protects heart are much higher than American diets. U.S. foods also eat a lot more cured meats, compared to fresh meats in French diets too. Obesity in U.S. were linked more to fructose diet which led to insulin resistance, rather than fats. Fats is actually only part of the story, the other is MSG. Japanese have no trouble with MSG because of their dietary taurine from soy sauce and raw fish.

: Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Oct;84(4):894-902.
Dietary fat intake and risk of coronary heart disease: the Strong Heart Study.
Xu J, Eilat-Adar S, Loria C, Goldbourt U, Howard BV, Fabsitz RR, Zephier EM, Mattil C, Lee ET.

Center for American Indian Health Research, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, OK 73190, USA.

BACKGROUND: The results of previous studies on the association between dietary fat intake and coronary heart disease (CHD) incidence are inconsistent. OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to examine the association between dietary fat intake and CHD incidence in American Indians in the Strong Heart Study. DESIGN: A total of 2938 participants aged 47-79 y and free of CHD at the second examination (1993-1995) were examined and followed for CHD, nonfatal CHD, and fatal CHD events to 31 December 2002. Dietary intake was assessed by using a 24-h diet recall and was calculated as percentages of energy. RESULTS: Participants were followed for a mean (+/-SD) of 7.2 +/- 2.3 y. During follow-up, 436 incident CHD cases (298 nonfatal CHD and 138 fatal CHD events) were ascertained. Participants aged 47-59 y in the highest quartile of intake of total fat, saturated fatty acids, or monounsaturated fatty acids had higher CHD mortality than did those in the lowest quartile [hazard ratio (95% CI): 3.57 (1.21, 10.49), 5.17 (1.64, 16.36), and 3.43 (1.17, 10.04), respectively] after confounders were controlled for. These associations were not observed for those aged 60-79 y. CONCLUSIONS: Total fat, saturated fatty acid, and monounsaturated fatty acid intake were strong predictors of CHD mortality in American Indians aged 47-59 y, independent of other established CHD risk factors. It may be prudent for American Indians to reduce their fat intake early in life to reduce the risk of dying from CHD.

PMID: 17023718 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Dr Annemie Godbehere - January 12, 2008 9:31 AM

I have printed the article to read it at my leisure later on, after having just read the first page. It is an answer to prayer as although having read recenltly (four months ago) 5 books on the benefits of a healthy plant based diet without or with very little meat included, I was still taken in to a degree by the scientific studies which 'proved' I was on the wrong track by becoming a vegan (the ETL kind). There was always this nagging feeling "who is right?" I wanted to ask about the Weston Price conclusion and Dr Mercola's Nutrional Typing philosophy. However, this is not necessary now and I am glad that I spent a little time today to read many of the questions and answers on Dr Fuhrman's forum, which brought me to this link. I am now more enthousiastic to continue the ETL regime, which I started 4 months ago. I know for sure that once there's a slight doubt that 'may be' the ETL diet is not as healthy as made out to be, and the Wolcotts and Mercolas of this world may have enough scientific evidence to prove it, the tendency is to go back to 'moderation in everything', and "moderation kills" (so say Dr Campbell and/or Dr Esselsteyn). I am back to an even keel again, more convinced that following a plant-based diet was the right choice. If I had followed my metabolic type for the past four months, instead of the ETL diet, my cholestrol levels would not have been reduced by 30% and with all that meat intake (I am a so-called high protein type), I wonder what damage I would have done to my health in the short and long run.
Thanks to all who are dedicated to knowing the truth and spreading it despite much opposition.

Charles Corum - January 31, 2008 4:29 AM

I would like to see Dr. Fuhrman address the facts and issues raised by Gary Taubes in his book "Good Calories, Bad Calories," in which he clearly documents the poor nutritional science that led to the supposed link between the consumption of saturated fat and cholesterol levels and coronary artery disease

Gerry Pugliese - January 31, 2008 8:25 AM

Hey Charles-

Dr. Fuhrman addresses the Taubes nonsense in this post:


omegahpla - May 9, 2008 1:42 PM

To much truth gets lost in pursuit of the dollar. No information is safe because there is always someone around to refute anything, and it doesn't matter if a so called opinion is based on garbage or not, someone who is supposedly expert will back them if it profits them.

Nutrition is much like politics or economics ... I guess the real problem is that to many things are economics for someone, and the legal types have made it standard procedure that no truth is left recognizable from any counter point, because that profits them.

We are in 22 inter related catch 22s. That there is no one optimal nutritional answer for all people is an added complication, as if we needed that.

All we can do is study ourselves and our close circles to see what works best, and I am afraid that long range data is nearly impossible to gain that way, until it's to late to use it anyway.

I'm afraid our civilization as a whole is being consumed by parasites, a symptom of metro centric life ... Metropalitis I call it. Driven by sophists employing sophism, as Philo described the language designed only to persuade, devoid of a factual center.

rawmilklvr - June 8, 2008 10:38 AM

We recently watched the movie Woodstock from the 60's. It was amazing to see the bodies of the people in the film. They were all (99% at least) well proportioned and healthy looking. Their childhood diets were probably pretty traditional. Take a look and compare to what's walking around on the earth today.

A comment about science. Scientific studies these days are too short and funded by questionable entities.

Marisa - June 28, 2008 9:28 PM

Bret's post is the best of the bunch. I would like to say, too, that you have to look at any person's or tribe's entire lifestyle, not just their diet. We have to adjust for ethnicity, climate, excercise level, stressors (or lack thereof) and God knows what else.

It's not a simple matter of saying, look at these people in XYZ Land, and look at what they are eating, and look how nice their bodies are - so, hey, let's eat like they do, too! In my view, it can't be so simply explained. We will never completely figure out why some people live a long time; why some people are healthy & energetic; and why others are not. We "see thru a glass darkly" is all.

David Brown - August 11, 2008 1:44 AM

Dr. Fuhrman wrote, "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."

Apparently Dr. Fuhrman is confused about what a trans fatty acid actually is. A trans fatty acid is an unsaturated fatty acid that behaves like a saturated fatty acid because of the position of the hydrogen atoms attached to the carbons on each side of a carbon double bond. Trans fats are a side product of the hydrogenation process which seeks to convert vegetable oil to a form that can be used in baked goods and confections. Prior to the invention of the hydrogenation process, animal fats were the preferred fatty ingredient in baked goods and confections. Hydrogenation allowed bakers and confectioners to obtain the same results using a cheaper, less healthy product.

For further discussion visit .

julia - November 7, 2008 11:14 AM

ewwww,who eats meat and butter for a living? grose!

Lynn - November 12, 2008 9:56 AM

I lived for eleven years in a remote tribal village high in the mountains of the Philippines. There were no fat natives, there were no fat animals. The animals just like the people had to work for their food. Nothing was handed to anyone. No stores and no free hay. The animals walked around looking for what to eat. The natives grew and harvested their food. The boiled all their meat when they had it, (which was rare) because their meat was so lean. You had to add fat to it if you wanted to fry it. We could only eat it if we pressure cooked.

Mainly they ate sweet potatoe and rice with salt and drank dark coffee. They also had some greens and fruits. Very little fish.

But their life span was not long due to illnesses like TB and pneumonia.

As civilization began to creep in so did medications, canned foods and sugar.

Less death especially of children. But still no fat natives because it isn't just what you eat it is still about what you are doing when you aren't eating.

They work so they can eat food, we eat while we work.

They had to expend calories to eat. We don't.

I don't know if it is so much what we eat as it is about what we are doing when we aren't eating.

Fat people are hard to find in areas where what you eat is dependant on what you did the hours before you eat.

If you only ate what you grew or raised and had to make everything from scratch and you had to carry your water from the stream, wash your clothes by hand, walk to your outside bathroom, and hunt for any meat... i think you could pretty much eat what you wanted to because nothing was processed.

Well got to run... I am late for my morning jog to the local bakery for my coffee and roll! Then off to work at the grocery store! See you tonight at 31 flavors! I am the one with the large Starbucks in my hand wondering which flavor combo to try today!

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