Red Meat Controversy

Red meat consumption has been a controversial subject for decades. It’s been blamed for contributing to the onset of various diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes, and as a mortality risk. I’ve been writing about the benefits of red meat for decades now, with the most recent short piece three years back titled What about Red Meat?

What about Red Meat?

Red meat has been maligned now for the past few decades. It seems that nothing good can be said about it except that it’s great barbecued. But the tide is turning and research is showing that red meat has been undeservedly maligned.1

I’ve always said that red meat is good. And there are several reasons for this. First of all I never believed in what the naysayers were preaching. Again, just as with saturated fat, there are too many inconsistencies. After all red meat has been a staple in our diets since the beginning of our time. So why all of a sudden is it poisonous to us?

And red meat contains as much oleic acid, the same monounsaturated fat as in olive oil, as it does saturated fat. Oleic acid is considered to have significant health effects,ii and is also felt to act as a sensing nutrient and when present decreasing appetite.3

Red meat is one of the best sources for amino acids. It's high in vitamins A, E and B complex. Vitamin B12, while plentiful in meat, is not found in vegetable products. Red meat is loaded with iron that is easily absorbed, unlike iron that is present in many plant sources. As well, red meats are excellent sources of other nutrients including L-carnitine, taurine, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), coenzyme Q10, potassium, zinc, and magnesium – all vital nutrients, especially for those of us who want to improve our body composition.

For example, L-carnitine is primarily found in meat. And red meat is the best source of L-carnitine with about 600 mg present per 100 grams. Fish contains only 35 mg per 100 grams. For athletes, plentiful L-carnitine means not only a larger proportion of lean muscle mass, but increased use of energy-rich fat as fuel during exercise. As well CLA can result in a reduction of overall body fat and an increase in lean muscle mass, by increasing insulin sensitivity and helping to regulate protein and fat metabolism in the body.4,5,6

Red meat is also one of the best foods for maximizing body composition. A recent study found that women on a low calorie, red meat diet lost more weight and were healthier than those who were following a low calorie, low meat diet.7 As well, there were no adverse effects on bone metabolism because of the high red meat/protein diet.

In another study, red meat was shown to have beneficial effects on serum cholesterol and triglycerides, the other important fat.8 At the end of the nine month study, the researchers found that the red meat group had an average decrease of 1 to 3 percent in "bad' low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and an average 2 percent increase in "good" high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and an average drop of 6 percent in their levels of triglycerides.

As well, red meat, with its saturated fat, increases serum testosterone levels. I’ve seen this in clinical studies that I’ve done on patients and athletes who I’ve put on my diets, with the emphasis on red meat. And this association has also been shown in some studies.9,10,11

Since then a number of studies have found little association between the consumption of red meat and some of the perceived consequences, such as various cancers (for example a recent study found that red meat consumption did not raise the risk of colon cancer, unlike previous studies that suggested that it did – see abstracts below).

A study published this past May (2010) found that it’s not red meat per se but processed meat that is linked to cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

I’ve copied an article below that is also available at

The bottom line is that red meat is an ideal food for elite athletes who want to maximize body composition and performance, and is especially so if they follow my phase shift diets – see for more info).

Interestingly a recent study concluded that buffalo meat, a red meat that’s becoming more popular, seems to be associated with several beneficial CVS effects.12

Full text at


  1. Hodgson JM, Ward NC, Burke V, Beilin LJ, Puddey IB. Increased lean red meat intake does not elevate markers of oxidative stress and inflammation in humans. J Nutr. 2007 Feb;137(2):363-7.
  2. Wahle KW, Caruso D, Ochoa JJ, Quiles JL. Olive oil and modulation of cell signaling in disease prevention. Lipids. 2004 Dec; 39(12):1223-31.
  3. Obici S, Feng Z, Morgan K, Stein D, Karkanias G, Rossetti L. Central administration of oleic acid inhibits glucose production and food intake. Diabetes. 2002; 51(2):271-5.
  4. Gaullier JM, Halse J, Hoye K, Kristiansen K, Fagertun H, Vik H, Gudmundsen O. Conjugated linoleic acid supplementation for 1 y reduces body fat mass in healthy overweight humans. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004; 79(6):1118-25.
  5. Eyjolfson V, Spriet LL, Dyck DJ. Conjugated linoleic acid improves insulin sensitivity in young, sedentary humans. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004; 36(5):814-20.
  6. Steck SE, Chalecki AM, Miller P, et al. Conjugated Linoleic Acid Supplementation for Twelve Weeks Increases Lean Body Mass in Obese Humans. J. Nutr. 2007 137 (5).
  7. Clifton PM, Noakes M, Keogh J, Foster P. Effect of an energy reduced high protein red meat diet on weight loss and metabolic parameters in obese women. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2003; 12 Suppl:S10.
  8. Davidson MH, Hunninghake D, Maki KC, et al. Comparison of the Effects of Lean Red Meat vs Lean White Meat on Serum Lipid Levels Among Free-living Persons With Hypercholesterolemia – A Long-term, Randomized Clinical Trial. Arch Intern Med. 1999;159:1331-1338.
  9. Hamalainen EK, Adlercreutz H, Puska P, et al. Decrease of serum total and free testosterone during a low-fat high-fibre diet. J Steroid Biochem 1983; 18 (3):369-70
  10. Hamalainen E, Adlercreutz H, Puska P, et al. Diet and serum sex hormones in healthy men. J Steroid Biochem 1984; 20 (1): 459-64.
  11. Dorgan JF, Judd JT, Longcope C, et al. Effects of dietary fat and fiber on plasma and urine androgens and estrogens in men: a controlled feeding study. Am J Clin Nutr 1996; 64 (6): 850-5.
  12. Giordano G, Guarini P, Ferrari P, Biondi-Zoccai G, Schiavone B, Giordano A. Beneficial impact on cardiovascular risk profile of water buffalo meat consumption. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2010 Sep;64(9):1000-6.