The Collison Newsletter August 2012




Red meat is a disease-promoting food the consumption of which leads to premature death.


The following Collison newsletters support this claim:

  • September 2005 Acid/Alkaline Balance - The Ideal Diet. This newsletter recommends that the ideal diet, the one which promotes good health, is one which is dominantly alkali-forming. Foods, after they are metabolised, leave either an acid or alkali residue in the body and thus are referred to as acid-forming or alkali-forming foods. The ideal diet should contain 75-80% alkali-forming foods and only 20-25% acid-forming foods. All animal foods are acid-forming, red meats strongly so. 
  • March 2008 Prevention of Cancer. Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer.  This newsletter sets out a series of recommendations, from a meta-analysis of some 7000 publications about cancer, which, if followed, will prevent or protect against cancer. One of these is to limit the intake of red meats, preferably to zero. This report is again featured in my January 2011 newsletter Preventing Cancer - Global Report Recommendations. 
  • March 2009 Foods for Health. The focus of this newsletter is the importance of nutrient-rich foods and their contribution to health. Foods are divided into four groups relevant to their nutrient content. The fourth group are those that should be consumed 'rarely', no more than once a month. Red meats are in this group.

There are many studies in peer-reviewed journals that link meat consumption to premature death. To cite but one: Sinha R, Cross AJ, et al: Meat intake and mortality: a prospective study of over half a million people. Arch Inter Med 2009; 169: 562-571.


Another large, long-term study was recently published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. This gives further strong evidence and confirms what we already know - red meat is a disease-promoting food, the consumption of which leads to premature death.

The Study 

The authors are Pan A, Sun Q, Bernstein AM, and co-workers. The title of the paper is Red Meat Consumption and Mortality: Results from 2 Prospective Cohort Studies. Arch Intern Med, 2012 (published online March 12). The study comes from the Harvard School of Public Health.


The authors describe the outcomes from more than 37,000 men from the Harvard Health Professionals Follow-up Study and more than 83,000 women from the Harvard Nurses Health Study who were followed-up for almost 3 million person-years.


This is the first large-scale prospective longitudinal study showing that consumption of both processed and unprocessed red meat is associated with an increased risk of premature mortality from all causes, as well as from cardiovascular disease and cancer. In a related study, the same authors showed that red meat consumption was also associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus. (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2011; 94(4): 1088-1096)


The authors concluded that eating one serving of unprocessed red meat daily increased the risk of death by 13%, and that eating one serving of processed meat daily increased the risk of death by 20%.


The article sets out the "Hazard Ratios for total mortality associated with replacement of other food groups for red meat intake". These were adjusted for age, body mass index, alcohol consumption, physical activity level, smoking status, race, menopausal status and hormone usage in women, family history of several diseases and total energy intake. Six replacement foods were compared to unprocessed red meat, processed red meat and total red meat. These foods were: nuts, legumes, low-fat dairy, whole grains, poultry and fish. In all comparisons there was a significantly lower risk of mortality. Especially was this so when the replacement foods were compared to processed red meats. Nuts were associated with the lowest risk, 0.80, and the other five ranged from 0.82-0.95. [The lower the figure, the lower the risk of mortality.]


Plant-based foods are rich in phytochemicals, bioflavonoids, and other substances that are protective against disease and mortality. Foods that are nutrient dense are especially beneficial to health. (See my February 2012 newsletter ANDI - Aggregate Nutrient Density Index and my January 2010 newsletter Phytochemicals.)


With regard to animal foods, all of which are acid-forming, "no legs is better than two legs is better than four legs" is also demonstrated in the above study.


What is included in the diet is as important as what is excluded from the diet. Substituting healthier foods for red meat provides double health benefits.


The following is known about red meat: (Dr Joel Fuhrman, Red meat: consider your health. March 2012)

  • Red meat is a contributory factor in the development of cancer. This relationship is not negated by eating grass-fed beef. 
  • Heme iron (the iron within myoglobin, found in red meat) is an oxidant that accumulates in the body over time, contributing to cardiovascular disease and dementia. 
  • Heme iron and proteins in meats form N-nitroso compounds in the digestive tract that can damage cellular DNA, potentially leading to stomach and colorectal cancers. 
  • Cooking meats (all meats, not just red meat) at high temperatures forms carcinogens called heterocyclic amines. 
  • Higher intake of meats (animal protein) leads to higher circulating levels of IGF-1 which promotes cell division and fuels growth of cancerous cells.

There is an emerging consensus among most nutrition experts about what constitutes a healthy way of eating. Dr Dean Ornish (respected and well-known Doctor in lifestyle medicine) suggests the following dietary principles:

  • "Little or no red meat; 
  • High in "good carbs" (including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and soy products in their natural forms); 
  • Low in "bad carbs" (simple and refined carbohydrates, such as sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and white flour); 
  • High in "good fats" (omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil, flax oil, and plankton-based oils); 
  • Low in "bad fats" (trans fats, saturated fats, and hydrogenated fats); 
  • More quality, less quantity (smaller portions of good foods are more satisfying than larger portions of junk foods)."

These recommendations are similar to those in my March 2009 newsletter Foods for Health.


Red meat IS harmful to health. Red meat is NOT good for you.

A dominantly plant-based diet leads to health and longevity.


*Copyright 2012: The Huntly Centre. 

Disclaimer: All material in the website is provided for informational or educational purposes only. Consult a health professional regarding the applicability of any opinions or recommendations expressed herein, with respect to your symptoms or medical condition.



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