Category: Nutrition

The Importance of Grass-fed beef and dairy

Dangerous Meat and Dairy?

As you may have heard, University of Southern California researchers recently published a report in the journal Cell Metabolism in which they related consumption of higher levels of protein from animal sources to increased mortality risk, as well as increased risk for the development of cancer. Interestingly, the same report also revealed that lower levels of protein consumption in elderly people might actually be worse in terms of risk for various health issues. The authors concluded:

These results suggest that low protein intake during middle age followed by moderate to high protein consumption in old adults may optimize healthspan and longevity.

The study followed 6,381 adults over an 18 year period and collected data revealing what foods were consumed as well as any specific health issues that developed.

Overall, I think the study does provide some very valuable information. If we are to interpret the results with the hope of gaining ideas about our food choices it’s important to recognize that the study clearly points a finger at the consumption of meat and dairy products in America, and that’s where we need to focus our attention.

More than 90% of the meat consumed in America is grain-fed as are the cows from which our dairy products are derived. This matters significantly. I wrote about the profound differences between grain-fed and naturally grass-fed meats in an earlier blog and have posted the research on this site.

The take home message is that this study basically uncovers the danger of eating animal products now purveyed in America. Grain-fed animals produce meat and dairy products dramatically higher in dangerous, inflammation producing omega-6 fats, while they are deficient in healthful, heart-protective, immune-enhancing, brain-friendly omega-3s. And it’s these alterations in fat ratios that relate to the very health issues we fear most including coronary artery disease, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

In addition, please understand that the vast majority of feed choices given to these animals are now genetically manipulated. We have no sense of what health consequences will manifest with this brand new perversion of our food supply.

This study that caught so much attention in media doesn’t reflect in any way the health benefits of food choices like grass-fed beef and dairy products derived from organically raised cows. But leave it to those who write the headlines to draw simplified and biased conclusions with the intent to draw attention to their publications. It boggles the mind that a study such as this would dare to imply that the foods we have eaten for well over a million years are now scientifically determined to be unhealthful. If that were the case, how would we have made it this far?

The important message revealed by the report was not articulated. What it truly shows is that what now is accepted as food bears little resemblance to anything found in the human diet since the beginning of our existence. And the health consequences of this experiment are now palpable.

  • mikemarkham

    Dr. Perlmutter-

    Many individuals don’t have the opportunity or funds to purchase grass-fed meat in the store. I contend that if they eat grain-fed meat/cheese…some fish and eliminate vegetable oils, margarine and grains, they have already gone a long way in reducing inflammation and should not worry too much.

    What say you?

    • Jeannette Henneberger Roy

      Since I no longer eat gluten and have switched to as much organic foods as possible.. cut out margarine… I do not feel the inflammation that I used to experience with osteoarthritis… Yes I still have it, but the normal osteo aches and pain.. not the burn.

      • mikemarkham

        An interesting take on inflammation. Most people cannot feel it – especially at a young age.

        • Jeannette Henneberger Roy

          lol well call me a young 80… and I recognize the burn

          • mikemarkham

            Glad you feel better. My hope is to never have to experience it.

    • ann

      I would like an opinion on the comment from mikemarkham….if we can’t continually purchase grass-fed, organic products due to cost, should we be eating something different? I can’t always afford to eat grass fed products…should I not be eating the grain fed, cheaper products?

      • Simon

        As i live in Norway, were Grass-Fed is rare, or even never seen in any store, i try my best to find it. But i have been told to choose leaner cuts when going for grainfed, or cut out the fat from fattier parts.

        • Simon, et al…
          The idea is to boost your intake of SAURATED fats, and shift to organ meats. Of course, if you can afford to go organic, that is better, but many of us have financial limitations we must deal with… organic chicken, for instance, tends to be cheaper than organic beef, just DON’T remove the skin !!! http://www.misterpaleo.blogspot.com

    • David Perlmutter

      That’s a great question Mike, thanks for asking it. My opinion is that acceptable and less expensive substitutes for grass-fed beef would include free-range chicken, free-range eggs, as well as poultry that is labeled as “antibiotic free.”

    • DrDanielDC

      Hey there. I’m chiropractor, specializing in Functional Medicine.
      If you consume even a few grams of grain-fed meat, your body will produce the same inflammatory response that will last for 2-3 days, as if you were to eat the grain separately.
      It’s in the best interest of your health to somehow find the funds to purchase either grass-fed beef, or organic chicken, or wild-caught fish and exercise EVERY DAY.
      It may involve working an extra day a week or switching to a better paying job.

      It will pay off, as you will enjoy great health and mobility well into your late 90’s, while most your peers on grain-diet won’t.

      • mikemarkham

        There are very few studies regarding this…and those that exist show a decrease in inflammation when replacing carbohydrates. If you have a source, please cite but I highly doubt your comparison.

        For some info regarding the studies Chris Kresser speaks about this in one of his blogs.

      • epic fester

        Perhaps well intended but irresponsible and borderline criminally negligent words nonetheless there Dr Daniel. And since chiropractors nor functional medicine practitioners earn Medical Degrees, how exactly are you a Doctor? You’ve insulted and diminished those that have truly made real sacrifices to EARN, y’know… an ACTUAL medical degree. Just stop giving bad advice and no one gets hurt.

        • medicinewoman

          I beg your pardon, Epic Fester, but do you even know of 1 medical doctor who studied nutrition in med school? Those who have gone on to educate themselves about health from the standpoint of finding the root cause of an illness in order to help the body heal have much more nutritional knowledge than a medical doctor who mostly dispenses drugs because it isn’t about the cure for them; it is about the management of an illness or disease by treating the symptoms. In my opinion, doctors only earned a degree to learn what the pharmaceutical companies want them to know … how to keep people on revenue producing drugs. Doctors are not much more than the little soldiers of the drug companies. Medical degrees ain’t what they used to be based on what “medical” doctors don’t learn about nutrition and how to actually get the body to heal. Now in the case of a broken leg, yes I would want a medical doctor, but when it comes to keeping myself healthy, it is up to me to do the research and find healing methods that don’t always include some expensive drug. Nature still provides as it has for millennium, if we stick to the foods that are not adulterated in harmful ways. Food IS thy medicine when its produced the way it was before companies started messing with it.

        • MeanMama

          To Epic Fester – Evidently you have had much better luck with MD’s than I have. One year ago I was so weak I couldn’t walk. my GP and Endocrinologist boost assured me all my labs were perfect – my health was to be envied – but I could not walk from weakness.

          In desperation I consulted a chiropractor, functional medicine doctor who ran many tests the endocrinologist should have and began treatment. The Endocrinologist was given test results and didn’t even look at them, again assuring me I was fine. The Gastroenterologist was mindful of test results and was a great help – the Endo was worthless and the GP, while compassionate indicated he really couldn’t comment since he had no training in that area. 10 months later after supplements, diet and exercise I’m again able to play tennis and lead an active life. Don’t knock it if you have no experience! I went from using a cane full time back to playing tennis with very minimal help from the MD”s.

          • James Tibirius Kirk

            Awesome story. We are in violent agreement, Healers Rule.

        • NoHarmHealth

          Just wondering, how many nutrition, food production, and nutrient research courses are required to earn a medical degree? Chiropractors have their area of expertise and Functional Medicine Practitioners use a patient-centered approach. Medical Dr. are experts in the traditional symptom centered approach. Wouldn’t it be great if all three experts worked together to restore health and wellness based on individual needs? Personally, I want the best traditional and non-traditional doctors and practitioners available if I fall ill. Play nice, very smart people… there is enough sickness in this world to go around.

      • I agree with Dr. Daniel… research has shown that “grain feeders” can carry both the problematic chemical constituents of GMO’s, herbicides, and the grains themselves in their flesh…

        • nomoregrain

          Yep I agree too. RUN from organic free range chicken!! Pastured Poultry only (google it) not free range. 4 oz per serving not my words but http://www.drgundry.com heart surgeon.

          • I have a hard time with so-called “experts” (in this case, Dr. Gundry) who state “how much one should consume” in specific amounts… this is SO individualized on SO many levels as to be almost ludicrous… one of the great aspects of Paleo/Primal (functionally-speaking), is the fact that one does not need to count calories or measure portions… you eat the “healthiest” food you can afford (what price your health ?), CONSCIOUSLY until you are satiated…. and NO, done properly, you will not gain weight, nor suffer in any manner, IF you pay attention to your body response, and adapt to it !

          • nomoregrain

            The portion size is only for animal protein portions. If someone has a lot of weight to lose and are not losing Dr.Gundry suggests they cut their palm size steak or chicken breast down to half a palm size. Excess animal protein in our body is not healthy, turns to sugar and to added weight. Have you read Diet Evolution? Pretty interesting.

  • Stu Hyderman

    I can introduce you to some Alberta ranchers some well into their 80’s who have worked hard all their lives, rarely been in hospital, yet they and their families eat truckloads of grain-fed beef (and pork, chicken and turkey) One 87 year old gent I know still wears his boots and cowboy hat, greets other men with a robust grip, a few broken bones and dislocated joints along the way, but rarely sick and certainly not sickly.

    • Samantha

      Maybe, since most of his life was spent eating healthy grain-fed meat (before GMOs & all the other junk we now put into farmed meat) – that is the key difference. The major changes to our meat are relatively recent. (Also – if these men are “ranchers” – why would their cows not eat grass, but only grain?)

      • Stu Hyderman

        Because we have “feedlots” and 6 months of winter.

    • mikemarkham

      The big difference between grain and grass fed is the ratio of omega 3s to omega 6s – and this is BIG. However, if the individual limits omega 6s in other areas, I contend there isn’t too much to worry about. Grass fed is much better, but also more expensive.

      The meat industry really needs a revolution – or destruction. We need small farmers to take over. USDA will still have jobs for inspecting, but last I’ve seen there are plenty of grass fields in the mid-US to graze on.

      Regarding your Alberta ranchers though – you can always find anecdotal evidence against certain contentions, but it doesn’t prove a point. Individuals have different metabolisms and gene expressions which can handle diets differently.

      • Stu Hyderman

        I can give you a dozen testimonials from subjects who will provide anectdotal evidence that Slave Lake is full of water.
        Your last sentence hit the nail on the head.

        • mikemarkham

          You can see a lake is full of water. Metabolism is a much more complex system.

    • Joe Texan

      Yeah, but are they fed corn full of GMO’s?

  • pixiedust8

    The journalists are merely reporting on a study. It is not their job to interpret studies. The study was focusing one one idea, as most studies do. An offshoot of this study may be a study with grass-fed beef.

    • rs711

      “It’s not their job to interpret the studies” – isn’t it? For a ‘science’ journalist it certainly is. If it’s not their job and reporting on something requires an interpretation of the material – why are they reporting on something they don’t understand then?

      Knowing ones limits is the first sign of a good scientist…and hopefully smart people more broadly.

      • pixiedust8

        They can’t extrapolate something not related to the study. If there is some relevant grassfed beef study, they can cite it, but the point is to report on a study, not push an agenda. Now I know everyone will argue with me because of the nature of this site, but that’s reality.

        • rs711

          “They can’t extrapolate something not related to the study” – their headline clearly IS an extrapolation, a disingenuous comparison to cigarettes at that.

          “they can cite it” – then why didn’t they? Wouldn’t simple ‘citation’ be the equivalent of just picking up study titles coming out on PubMed? Lets be realistic; their job is to take information and communicate it in an intelligible way and provide informative analysis – they failed at that spectacularly. Why defend them?

    • mikemarkham

      First of all, they post misleading headlines. Most individuals don’t take the time to dissect a study, let alone being able to tell the difference between fact and fiction. The researchers themselves made conclusions they had no way of making. They should know better being they are a distinguished institution of higher learning.

      An example of a headline from Aftonbladet is “Steak is as dangerous as smoking.”

      Second, there have already been plenty of grass-fed beef studies – but will they account for smokers this time? Or whether the individuals eat grains? Will they rely on food survey data – which is typically worthless.

      There is a common phrase in data gathering. Garbage in, garbage out. You have to begin with a solid foundation data before you can churn it together into useful information.

      • Mike… YUP !!! GIGO… I think it is apparent to anyone who takes the time to actually sit down and analyze this “study”, that there was a disingenuous motive behind it…

  • Ceecee

    This makes me so sad and quite angry, especially for my children and grandchildren! It’s all about the mighty dollar with no concern for the public and repercussions to our health. Our world has gone crazy! Most people cannot afford the grass-fed meats and dairy products…so I will continue to ask God to bless my food before eating it! 🙁

  • Grant Parisi

    This is for Mike Markham,I live in Ontario, and buy from a local farmer who raises Grass fed beef, and when winter comes they still eat grass, and they live in harmony, not in a pen with disease,antibiotics growth hormones and are forced to eat a diet they where never designed to eat.

  • deb

    I found this study very disturbing when I saw it on the news. I think a lot of people will take it to heart and stop eating meat and dairy. I believe this is wrong. I have eaten a high protein diet for years and done very well. I am 50 years old and weigh about 130. There are 3 things that I see that may be a problem. If you eat a high protein diet, it is very important to take in more fiber. If not, and yes I speak from experience, you are going to have bowel problems which can be a nuisance and even dangerous. I believe this can lead to colon problems and even cancer. Also, animals are fed so much junk, including unnatural grains, burrs that come from Round-up Ready cotton, Round-up Ready cottonseed and the most disturbing thing I have ever heard is feeding chicken poop to cattle. They do this as a filler to make the feed go farther in some places. Disgusting and dangerous. Also, animals are fed growth hormones to get more meat on them quicker. Makes more money for the producers but this is dangerous to those who eat the meat. Eat lean natural beef and meat that was intended for these old bodies and stay away from man made and altered products.

  • Stu Hyderman

    I think a lot of people in our society are stressed out to a very significant level, and that has just as much to do with ill health as what we are putting into ourselves at this point. A VERY high percentage of the people I see in clinic, in my opinion, have a lot of really irrational fear of impending catastrophe. Not their fault, they see the news and note the world is going to hell in a handbasket..When I was young, the mainstay of discussion which provided some stablility was the fact the earth turned on its axis, morning always came and we would always be warm in summer and cold in the winter. Now, the scaremongers have found a way to shake even our core beliefs about the world..I’m 60 years old and as far back as I can remember in the media, the world was going to hell in a handbasket..In the 60’s we were almost certain we would be all nuked. Today..different schtick, same theme..
    I think our collective mental status is far more a factor in determining our health and well-being that some Omega fats.

    • epic fester

      Agree 100%

      Maybe what you describe is an American cultural issue? We are all under fear-seige or something since… forever. In response I have developed an acute case of Apocalypse Fatigue.

      Ever read about the The Great Disappointment? We get all the nutters! Except now they’ve hired marketers, demographics experts and analytics vendors to push the fringe view into the mainstream…. or something. Only in America. Travel to any country except Canada and Germany, and you may agree.

  • Phyllis

    Once I realized the difference between food that nourishes and food that poisons me, I stopped eating the poison. If everyone did this , it should self correct. I n other words supply and demand. Since doing so my health is better than ever!
    What everyone needs to realize is…. nothing is preventing us from opting out of the current food paradigm.
    If this means eating less meat and more veggies, so be it! I’ve gone this route due to the fact that I refuse to poison myself just because that is all that is available mainstream wise. I am part of a community that supplies all the finished on pasture meat I could want and I belong to a raw milk cow share. I still eat mostly veggies because I have found my balance… it’s up to everyone to find theirs. If where you live isn’t sustaining you and your family in terms of health and nutrition, then why are you still living there?

  • Staci Tahai Sexauer

    Dr. Perlmutter, thank you for your articles, books and interviews. You have made a profound impact on my health. I do have a question about grain fed chickens and their eggs. I raise my own chickens. 85% of their time is spent in their chicken house and outside pen to prevent loss from predation. This necessitates they be fed on chicken feed primarily, especially in the winter months. They do free range some in the evenings and on weekends, when I am home to monitor them. What effect do you thing the grain feed has on the nutritional content of their eggs?

    • catalinda8

      Staci, I can’t necessarily speak to the impact of feeding only grains, but as a fellow chicken owner, you might consider giving your girls some supplementary food. Mine are out at grass in the nice weather, but even in the winter, I give them lots of leftovers, greens, rice, eggs, etc. Some grocery stores have sections where they sell bruised veg cheaper, and that’s just fine for the hens. They love pumpkins and watermelon and really, almost anything. Just a thought! 🙂

      • ABSOLUTELY ! I have several friends and clients who raise their own chickens, and all of them feed kitchen scraps (INCLUDING crushed egg shells for the calcium) to their hens. Most people are unaware that chickens are OMNIVORES…

        • catalinda8

          That’s true! At Thanksgiving, I always bring them home a little turkey. I swear the hens look a bit smug while they’re eating it, lol.

  • Boris

    Dr. Perlmutter,

    Why did you not provide your readers with a link to the actual study? This is the link to the study: http://www.cell.com/cell-metabolism/fulltext/S1550-4131%2814%2900062-X#Summary

    I Highly recommend that people should read the study, it’s simple to understand.

    Highlights of the study:

    High protein intake is linked to increased cancer, diabetes, and overall mortality

    High IGF-1 levels increased the relationship between mortality and high protein

    Higher protein consumption may be protective for older adults

    Plant-derived proteins are associated with lower mortality than animal-derived proteins

    • Mike

      You obviously didnt read his response and skipped right to the part where you can spread your bs vegan dogma.

      • Boris

        Why are you so rude? I simply provided a link to the actual study when I could not find it anywhere in Dr. Perlmutter’s response.

        There is even a great comments section in which you can ask the authors of the study direct questions, and they reply back to you.
        Here’s the link again:

        http://www.cell.com/cell-metabolism/fulltext/S1550-4131%2814%2900062-X#Summary

        • Bet Sobon

          We all read the article, that’s why we are reading this article.

        • epic fester

          Maybe, just maybe vegans are mostly irritating smug eco elitists. South park episode “Smug Alert” captures this dynamic well.

        • Boris,
          This study has been dismantled by any number of educated professionals, including Chris Kressor, Mark Sisson, etc…

      • edward quince

        Why does everyone bash the vegans. If they all converted, then the price of pastured meats will go up or worse, there will be shortages. Let them keep their lifestyle and keep the healthy food available for those that value it.

  • Lisa Puskas

    I believe totally. Grass fed, and organic is certainly a more natural way for us all to be eating. That being said…Yes it can be more expensive, but spend now on good foods or spend later at Doctors for health issues.

    • epic fester

      Respecting the source sited by the author [Effect of feeding systems on omega-3
      fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid and trans fatty acids in
      Australian beef cuts: potential impact on human health] I will still eat grain fed. Even though initial research suggests grass fed superior to grain fed beef, grass fed is difficult to find and is 2x the cost of grain fed meats. Further, at 7 billion and growing, the hungry populace just needs to survive. Only very small % of humans ever will care about this and choose to pay $$ more. Beef is elastic demand: if x is at a higher price then the consumer finds a less expensive alternative. Just ask JBS USA (biggest. meat. producer. ever.)

      And thanks to The Scientific Method, there is no need for one to ‘believe totally’ in the initial research. It just is. Do we ‘believe’ in gravity? With or without a belief it exists as do the other 3 fundamental forces of nature, a.k.a. the known physical universe.

  • Andre Chimene

    Follow the money!

    This jumps out…
    Protein vs animal protein
    The study claims to have adjusted for protein in general vs. animal protein to conclude that animal protein is the harmful factor and not protein per se. Call me suspicious, but I always check for conflicts of interest and the lead researcher, Dr Longo, has declared interests in (actually, he’s the founder of) L-Nutra – a company that makesProLon™ – an entirely plant based meal replacement product.

    This jumps out…
    Protein vs animal protein
    The study claims to have adjusted for protein in general vs. animal protein to conclude that animal protein is the harmful factor and not protein per se. Call me suspicious, but I always check for conflicts of interest and the lead researcher, Dr Longo, has declared interests in (actually, he’s the founder of) L-Nutra – a company that makesProLon™ – an entirely plant based meal replacement product.

    So? By making animal protein the villian you will buy his plant based protein.

    • epic fester

      Mostly agree.

      Did you cut and paste twice by accident or to add 2x emphasis of implication to underlying monetary motive of ‘this study’. I am doubly impressed.

      Longo’s lead role in a report condemning animal protein after following 6,381 adults over an 18 year period may somehow afford his company a market advantage of course, yet a substantive leg-up in the wildly popular plant based diet business has zero relationship to this USC report. I’ve found that people tend to switch to vegan diets because they want to somehow eliminate/ reduce/ solve animal cruelty vs health concern… my 2c.

  • Tasha

    Dr. Pearlmutter, thank you for posting this blog. I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard this reported on the radio this week. Outrageous! Thanks for your voice of reason.

    • David Perlmutter

      Thank you Tasha. I saw many folks on social media discussing this study, so wanted to offer my insights.

  • Marie

    I’m lucky I live in Ireland where our livestock are mostly grass fed. This study was broadcast here but no one explained the difference. Needless to say we didn’t get too bothered by it. We are privileged to have good quality food.

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  • Boris

    Dr. Perlmutter, please help me here. I read a response of the author of the study, Valter Longo who stated:

    “We did not just show an effect for meat proteins, but for all animal-derived proteins and also plant-derived proteins, which were also associated with increased cancer incidence when consumed at high levels.”

    He’s concerned with over consumption of ALL PROTEIN sources, animals AND plant derived. The link where he comments on this: http://www.cell.com/cell-metabolism/fulltext/S1550-4131%2814%2900062-X#Comments

  • Boundless

    There’s a concise summary (not by me) of the (many) problems with this report in a DietDoctor thread, specifically at:

    http://www.dietdoctor.com/tabloid-eating-meat-like-smoking-cigarettes/comment-page-1#comment-83519

  • Bet Sobon

    Thank You!

  • Brenda Kjar

    For 15 years I was told that my cholesterol numbers were going up…including my triglycerides. I refused to go on statins and did my own research online. After months of reading, I worked up the courage to go against the grain (haha), and switched from whole grain, low fat, little meat, fruits and veggies to a Paleo Diet. I eat no grain, no sugar, only grass fed meats, only healthy fats low in omega 6, wild caught salmon, and veggies. My numbers are normal for the first time in 15 years, and I’ve lost 20lbs without even trying, I eat as much as I want and never count calories….LIFE IS GOOD !!!!

    • YOU GO, BRENDA !!! TWO THUMBS UP !!! (not that I’m biased, mind you)

  • nomoregrain

    My husband and I had the Berkley Lab test done 2 years ago with the genetic testing and due to him being APOe 3/4(AD gene could have a tendency towards AD) his doc said NO animal fat. So I like that because it is pretty hard to find grass fed meats anyway. So we eat all white fish! Halibut etc. and crab n shellfish! Yum. My APOe was 3/3 so I can eat animal fat but rarely do. And no American cow products (dangerous lectins) but can have goat milk and some european cheeses in small amounts. And of course fully grain/carb/sugar free we are. Love it!

  • sluzen

    What kind of beef did they use in the study? grain-fed or organic grass-fed. Would there not be a difference in the results?

  • Don

    Mankind has not been around for well over a million years. Three different branches of science date humans to 50,000 to 150,000 years ago.

    • Joe Texan

      malarky.

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  • TheArabist .

    It is my understanding that the issue isn’t necessarily with consuming meat but with consuming too much meat as when more than about half of one’s meal is cooked, it triggers an immune response in the body which I believe contributes to the inflammation process, but I might be remembering the concept incorrectly.

  • PatriciaB

    Am a vegetarian – not vegan though. What are the guidelines for enough protein to make the diet work?

  • william

    Here is a site for what you are looking for, noreply@tropicaltraditions.com

  • Barbara Hickman

    Did study describe what diet consisted of aside from meat portions (take it they did not specify ‘wild/grass-fed vs farmed/grain-fed)? Did they specify what fats were used and in what portions? How was grain/carbs/sugar handled. Much reading states researchers can induce cancers just from polyunsaturated fats or from sugars/carbs alone.

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