Animal products are considered a luxury…a rich man’s food. When there is abundance, meat and animal products are eaten in abundance, but when there is poverty, animal product intake is low and easy-to-store food consumption is high, such as grains, corn, potatoes, etc. This is exactly what happened during wartime.
But now this poverty state has translated over into an anti-meat agenda. First, it was saturated fat that was demonized. And that meant that meat was automatically out the door, because it was high in saturated fat. Even though more and more research is showing that polyunsaturated fat is actually the bad guy and saturated fat not, meat is still being demonized.
There are a few poor reasons why meat is being demonized, such as:
- Increased risk of atherosclerosis due to TMAO production. Few know that fish is actually a much greater contributor to TMAO than meat, yet fish is supposedly inversely correlated with heart disease.
- When omitting Seventh-Day Adventist studies from meta-analyses (which usually conclude that meat is bad), the beneficial associations with cardiovascular health for vegetarian diets are either less pronounced or absent indicating the specific effects of a health-conscious lifestyle rather than low meat consumption (R).
- A meta-analysis of RCTs has shown that meat-eating does not lead to deterioration of cardiovascular risk markers. The highest category of meat-eating even paralleled a potentially beneficial increase in HDL-C level (R).
- One example of a fact that is typically ignored is that hunter-gatherers are mostly free of cardiometabolic disease although animal products provide the dominant energy source (about two-thirds of caloric intake on average, with some hunter-gatherers obtaining more than 85% of their calories from animal products. In comparison, contemporary Americans obtain only about 30% of calories from animal foods (R).
- Increased oxidative stress and inflammation. However, the available evidence generally suggests that interventions with red meat do not lead to an elevation of in vivo oxidative stress and inflammation, which are usually cited as being part of the underlying mechanisms triggering chronic diseases (R).
It’s been heavily publicized or propagated to lower overall meat intake. Some even go as far as to say that Americans are obese and full of diseases (such as diabetes) due to an increasingly higher intake of meat. However, beef consumption per capita in the U.S. has steadily declined from 95lbs in 1976 to only 60lbs in 2017 (USDA 2018) and cardiometabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes have rapidly been increasing (R).
It should be clear by now that it’s not the meat intake that causes obesity and disease, but rather lifestyle factors, such as chronic stress, sedentarism, polluted air, poor sleep, nutrient deficiencies (due to low animal food intake), chronic EMF exposure, etc.
A really good book that debunks all the “meat is bad” myths is The Carnivore Code, by Paul Saladino. Just as a disclaimer, I’m not a carnivore, nor do I endorse that diet/lifestyle.
Let’s discuss what you’re missing out if you’re not eating animal foods.
The benefits of eating meat
Animal foods, especially meat, contain numerous beneficial compounds that I’ll discuss below. And you don’t even have to overeat on meat to reap the benefits.
This study shows that the consumption of just 30g of dried beef can fully meet daily physiological needs of the healthy 70kg adult human for taurine and carnosine, and can also provide large amounts of creatine, anserine and 4-hydroxyproline to improve human nutrition and health, including metabolic, retinal, immunological, muscular, cartilage, neurological, and cardiovascular health.
4 important compounds I want to talk about right off the bat is taurine, 4-hydroxyproline, creatine and carnosine.
Growing evidence shows that taurine, carnosine, creatine and 4-hydroxyproline play crucial roles in protecting mammalian cells from oxidative stress and injury, and vegetarians are at great risks for the deficiencies of taurine, carnosine, and creatine, particularly if they are active in physical exercise (R). More on that in just a bit.
A 70kg male has ~70 g taurine and it’s present in relatively high concentrations in all tissues, such as blood, intestine, liver, skeletal muscle, heart, brain, kidneys, and retina.
The body is able to synthesize 50-125mg taurine a day, but during stress, this conversion is limited (R).
The daily excretion of taurine via the kidney varies, but is usually between 28-231mg per day. A few factors increase the excretion thereof, and one is muscle damage. This is one reason why men who workout need more taurine (R). Also, cortisol exerts an inhibitory action of renal taurine re-uptake which can lead to hypotaurinemia (R).
Taurine is a nutritionally essential amino acid for children (particularly preterm infants) and conditionally essential amino acid for adults.
Dry meat contains about 2.3-3mg/g, so 100g of dry meat will have about 23-30mg of taurine. So if you’re a decent meat eater like me, you’ll get 69-90mg daily from 300g of dried red meat. Higher amounts than red meat are found in shellfish, especially scallops, mussels, and clams.
A few reasons why taurine is awesome, is because taurine (R):
- Conjugates with bile acids to form bile salts in the liver that facilitate intestinal absorption of dietary lipids (including lipid-soluble vitamins) and eliminate cholesterol in bile via the fecal route.
- Is a major antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-apoptotic factor in the body.
- Stabilizes cell membranes.
- Regulates calcium signaling, fluid homeostasis in cells, and retinal photoreceptor activity.
- Contributes to osmoregulation.
- Is a key component of nerve and muscle conduction networks.
- Stimulates neurological development.
- Acts an Inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system (CNS).
- Enhances glycogen synthesis in the liver.
- Improves amino acid absorption.
- Inhibits the expression of the angiotensin II type-2 receptor.
- Improves mitochondrial function and electron transport activity.
If you want to learn more about the awesome benefits of taurine, check out this article of mine.
Carnosine is another potent anti-oxidant found in the human body.
It can be estimated that a 70kg male has 45g carnosine and about 99% of carnosine is present in skeletal muscle (although there is also a fair amount in the brain as well).
For example, 30g of dried beef can provide 608mg carnosine, which can meet 100% of the daily carnosine requirement of the 70kg adult.
A 70kg male is able to synthesize about 606mg carnosine per day from the amino acids histidine and β-alanine. Taking carnosine directly isn’t effective at all, since the body rapidly breaks it down into histidine and β-alanine.
Eating meat containing carnosine is effective at increasing carnosine stores, since it’s possible that some components in beef (anserine, amino acids (e.g., histidine and β-alanine), and copper) inhibit serum carnosinase, thus inhibiting carnosine breakdown.
β-alanine appears to be the rate-limited enzyme in carnosine synthesis, as supplementing β-alanine increases muscle carnosine, but histidine doesn’t.
For example, supplementation with β-alanine to humans (e.g., 2–6 g/day) dose-dependently increases the concentrations of carnosine in skeletal muscle by 20–80%, but dietary supplementation with 3.5 g histidine/day for 23 days has no effect on intramuscular carnosine concentrations in non-vegetarian adults.Reference
In adult humans, 7 hours after consuming 150g beef or chicken broth, urinary concentrations of carnosine were 13- and 15-fold greater, respectively, than the values for no consumption of the meat, showing that a rather large amount is being absorbed (R).
The major physiological functions of carnosine include (R):
- Activating muscle ATPase to provide energy
- Metal-ion (copper, zinc and iron) chelation and homeostasis
- Antioxidant capacity (directly through scavenging ROS and peroxyl radicals and indirectly through chelating metals), and
- Protection against lipid peroxidation, protein oxidation, and the formation of advanced protein glycation (by inhibiting protein carbonylation and glycoxidation) and lipoxidation end products (by suppressing lipid peroxidation).
- Regulation of sarcoplasmic reticulum Ca2+-release channels and sarcoplasmic reticulum Ca2+ homeostasis in skeletal muscle
- Lowering high blood pressure
- Inhibiting angiotensin-converting enzyme, thus lowering aldosterone
- Enhancing nitric oxide availability in endothelial cells
- Potentiating cardiac and skeletal muscle contractilities
- Serving as a neurotransmitter or a neuromodulator, as well as the modulation of excitation-contraction coupling in skeletal muscle and the activity of the sympathetic nerve innervating the muscle.
- Inhibition of the growth and migration but induction of apoptosis of tumor cells, including human glioblastoma cells as well as colorectal cells, as well as the suppression of the release of interleukin-6 by lipopolysaccharides plus interferon-γ-activated macrophages.
- Influencing epigenetic regulation of gene expression in mammalian cells via increased histone acetylation.
- Reducing intracellular osmolarity in the skeletal muscle and olfactory bulb, thereby protecting their integrity and function.
- Conferring a vasorelaxant effect to reduce blood pressure, stroke, and seizures.
- Being beneficial for ameliorating aging-related disorders such as cataract and neurological diseases.
Supplemental carnosine has been shown to (R):
- Reduce the risk of oxidative stress-related diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and seizures.
- Ameliorate syndromes in patients with gastric ulcers, Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, autistic spectrum disorder, and ocular diseases.
- Attenuate elevated levels of glucose, triglycerides, advanced glycation end products, and tumor necrosis factor-α levels in patients with type-2 diabetes and in overweight or obese pre-diabetic subjects.
- Enhance cardiac output and improve the quality of life in patients with heart failure, as well as renal functional integrity and anti-oxidative capacity in pediatric patients with diabetic nephropathy
- Ameliorate insulin resistance
- Increase lean-tissue mass in obese or overweight subjects
The benefits of carnosine are quite remarkable, and consuming enough amino acids for carnosine synthesis or eating carnosine rich foods (such as meat) is totally worth it.
Carnitine is needed for fatty acid oxidation. Your body can create it itself, but uses valuable nutrients to do so. It’s like eating/supplementing creatine. By doing so you spare the nutrients involved in synthesizing it.
I would not go as far as supplementing carnitine, as that’s been shown to be anti-thyroid.
Check out my other two articles on carnitine and fatty acid oxidation:
- Carnitine: a controversial view and why it’s actually bad for you
- The dope on blocking fatty acid oxidation
Vitamins and minerals
Vitamins and minerals are essential for all bodily functions. Deficiencies lead to all kinds of disorders.
Animal sources of vitamins and minerals are better than plant sources, because:
- Animal sources contain no anti-nutrients so vitamins and minerals are better absorbed from plant sources.
- E.g. The assimilability of vitamin B2 from buckwheat and oatmeal is 40-70%, 80% from milk and 90-100% for liver (R).
- Zinc, iron, magnesium, manganese, etc., for animals, are very well absorbed due to the lack of anti-nutrients.
- The vitamin and mineral form in animals are often better than plants. For example:
- Plants contain pyridoxine whereas animals have pyridoxal. Pyridoxine has to be converted to pyridoxal so that pyridoxal can be activated to pyridoxal 5 phosphate (P5P) as P5P is used as a cofactor in enzymatic reactions.
- Plants contain niacin whereas animals have niacinamide and nicotinamide riboside (milk). NAD+ is created from niacinamide.
- The “foliates content in dairy products is lower than in vegetables and cereals, nevertheless their bioavailability and stability is much better. High folate stability results from presence of hydro- and lipophylic antioxidants efficiently protecting folates and other bioactive compounds against oxidation processes on synergic way. On the other hand, high bioavailability is a consequence of folic appearing in milk mainly in form of mono glutamates and also of a presence of a protein ready to bind folates (FBP–folic binding protein). FBP makes easier folates transport through cell membranes. Moreover, present in milk sphingolipids and cholesterol stimulate activity of FBP.” (R). 5-methyl-tetrahydrofolate (5-methyl-THF) is the major folate form in milk and beef liver is also a great source of folate.
- Iron is animal is heme dominant whereas in plants isn’t non-heme dominant.
- Animals products often contain more vitamins and minerals
- E.g. Vitamin A (retinol vs carotene), B2, B12, B3, B5, copper, zinc, choline, vitamin K2, vitamin D, selenium, iron (spleen for example), etc.
And just because other nutrients haven’t been found to be deficient in vegetarians or low meat-eaters, doesn’t mean it’s adequate because borderline deficiency isn’t seen as a deficiency.
Gelatin is high in glycine, proline and hydroxyproline. A good amount of gelatin is found in meat, especially the tougher cuts and in ground beef. Bone broth is definitely the best source of gelatin.
Gelatin has a whole host of benefits, that I’m not going to cover here, but I want to focus on 4-hydroxyproline.
4-hydroxyproline is found to be an abundant constituent of collagen and elastin.
4-hydroxyproline has been shown to:
- Improve anti-oxidative function and prevents colitis in the intestine.
- Suppress NF-kB activation.
- Regulate the intracellular redox state, and stimulate the expression of anti-oxidative enzymes in cells.
- Inhibit the production of hydroxyl radical via the Fenton reaction possibly through: (a) formation of coordinate bonds with iron, (b) sequestration of Fe2+, and (c) interactions with intermediates of the reaction via hydrophobic hydration.
- Reduce inflammation and promote collagen synthesis in dermal fibroblasts, while enhancing bone density and strength. Finally, as
- To be an activator of the apoptotic cascade. The oxidation of 4-hydroxyproline by 4-hydroxyproline oxidase to ROS can inhibit the growth of cancer cells and promote their death, thereby inhibiting tumorigenesis.
- Through the action of ROS, to kill pathogenic bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses. 4-hydroxyproline can enhance the ability of humans to fight against infectious diseases.
Beef contains an abundant amount of 4-hydroxyproline that improves the health and well-being of the young, adult, and aging populations. If you want to fix certain health issues, then consuming bone broth for even great amounts of 4-hydroxyproline is a good idea.
Meat is the best source of creatine and there is an inverse correlation between depression and creatine intake (R). The most rigorous studies demonstrate that the prevalence or risk of depression and/or anxiety are significantly greater in participants who avoid meat consumption (R).
A 70kg adult male has about 120g of total creatine (creatine phosphate plus free creatine), with about 95% of it being in skeletal muscle and we lose about 1.7g per day. About 50% of our methylation goes to synthesizing creatine and a rather large amount of glycine is used in the process. Eating meat or supplementing creatine can greatly spare methyl donors as well as the amino acids used to create creatine.
Even if you eat only 30g of dried beef daily, which provides about 303 mg creatine, it will take about 240 days to saturate creatine stores in skeletal muscle. If you’re like me and eat more meat (roughly 300g dried meat), you’d be consuming about 3g creatine daily.
A few benefits of creatine include:
- Being neuroprotective and beneficial to patients affected by age-related neurological diseases, including Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, long-term memory deficits, Alzheimer’s disease, and stroke, as well as patients with pathophysiological conditions, such as gyrate atrophy, post-stroke depression, congestive heart failure, chronic musculoskeletal pain disorders, atherosclerotic diseases, and cisplatin-induced renal damage.
- Improving energy production
- Improving stress resiliency
- Improving mental function
- Improving exercise performance
- Enhancing the DHT release from exercise
Other noteworthy components in muscle and organ meat include:
- Choline. Animals contain much higher choline than plants and it’s present in phospholipids, which can directly be used by the body. Eggs and organ meat are great sources of choline.
- CLA, which has anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, promote fat loss, etc.
- Glutathione. The free radical scavenging effect of glutathione can be supercharged with flavonoids, such as dehydroquercitin and quercitin. This is another reason why I combine my meat with apples.
- Inosine, which improves energy production, is liver protective, neuroprotective (R), anti-stress, anti-inflammatory (R), anti-depressant (R), etc.
- CoQ10 (found in high concentrations in the heart, but also in decent amounts in the muscle).
- Intestinal alkaline phosphatase (found in the intestine and aids in endotoxin detoxification).
- BPC-157. This peptide is found in gastric juice and has mucosal (and other organs) protective and regenerative effects.
- Diamine oxidase (found in the kidney), which assists in breaking down histamine.
- Neurosteroids, phospholipids (phosphatidylserine, phosphatidylcholine, etc.) and cholesterol (found in the brain).
- Saturated fat; especially stearic acid, which promotes mitochondria fusion and as a result; mitochondrial function, glucose and fat oxidation and ATP production.
Few other benefits of animal products:
- Much smaller chance of causing gut irritation. Many plants can cause digestive issues due to a variety of reasons. Animal products don’t contain anti-nutrients, lectins, gluten, FODMAP, etc.
- It’s always a complete protein source. If certain essential amino acids are missing, such as methionine, cysteine or lysine, then the rest of the amino acids are oxidized instead of used for muscle protein synthesis.
A few ways you can improve the health benefits of meat is to:
- Consume enough calcium throughout the day to balance the phosphorus in the meat.
- Add 1 tbsp gelatin with every 100-200g of meat to balance methionine with glycine.
- Have carbs, such as fruit or honey with your meat. I prefer fruit and honey over starches, as starches can interfere with the proper digestion of red meat.
- Eat organ meat, as muscle meat alone is still relatively inadequate in terms of micronutrients.
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