Why Is Red Meat So Bad For You? New Study Helps Explain.

IMG_2212By Janis Jibrin, RD, co-author of The Pescetarian Plan

People who eat more red meat are more likely to get heart disease, colon cancer and other types of cancer, and are apt to die at younger age. How come? A brand new study offers a brand new reason.

Red meat has a lot of strikes against it—grilling it produces cancer-causing chemicals, the nitrites and nitrates that preserve bacon, hotdogs, salami and other processed meats are linked to cancer, and the heme iron in meat can cause inflammatory compounds. But many of these same issues apply to poultry and seafood (i.e. grilling produces carcinogens, chicken and turkey luncheon meats contain nitrites/nitrates, and they also contain heme iron). Yes, these foods are not associated with health problems. In fact, people who eat more seafood are healthier on many fronts, as I explain in The Pescetarian Plan.

A new study offers an intriguing theory on why red meat may be so uniquely harmful. Compared to other proteins, beef, and to a lesser degree lamb and pork, are high in a compound called N-glycolylneuraminic acid (Neu5Gc) that causes inflammation.   Chronic inflammation is behind most of the killer diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.

In a University of California San Diego study, mice given Neu5Gc developed inflammation throughout their bodies, and were five times more likely to develop cancer than mice that didn’t eat a Neu5Gc-rich diet.

Seafood has next to no Neu5Gc (except for caviar which is very high in the compound). Neither do fruits, vegetables, poultry or eggs; milk has low levels, and levels range in cheese, with goat cheese at the higher end. Our bodies can’t produce this compound on their own, but can absorb it from meat.

Need help with cooking seafood, or looking for some easy seafood recipes? My co-author Sidra Forman has you covered in Chapters 12 and 13 of The Pescetarian Plan.