Monday, November 1, 2010

Combating obesity and the red meat myth

First off, props to Mayor Bloomberg of New York City for his efforts to have sugar drinks banned from the acceptable list of food stamp purchases. It's not that I'm looking for those people on food stamps to suffer the lack of those luxury foods/drinks that most of us crave at some point or another. This represents a great opportunity for a step towards taking back the obesity issue from its current status of out-of-control. The government has itself in a hole where it provides food stamps to citizens who then purchase unhealthy foods with the stamps, thereby leading a higher number back into the necessity for increased government sponsored healthcare. This idea of using food stamps to provide healthier food products should be accompanied by educational tools for people on how to balance their diets for nutritional optimization but limiting the procurement of unhealthy sugar drinks is certainly a start in the right direction. Personally, I can say I lost weight just when I stopped drinking pop every day. It's good for me and can be good for you too.

Hand in hand with this is the topic of red meat consumption which always comes up in nutritional debates and is my main justification for this blog today. Red meat is always catching flak from its opponents ranging from PETA to registered dieticians to talk show hosts. The link I included above is just one example of an article designed to convince consumers to eat less red meat. Well, I'll let someone more qualified than myself justify the truth of the article and its "research" but I can tell you that I am skeptical of this study just like I am skeptical of so many others. People are voluntarily recruited for this study, are expected to actually be honest in their questionaires, and are expected to accurately keep records of their eating habits. This is not a controlled study and so much can go wrong. You should also be careful to note that although they blame red meat in the report, the study actually lumped both red meat and processed meat in the same bin. Of course, if I'm eating bologna or McDonald's every day of my life, I'm probably not expected to survive as long as someone who is cooking meat in their own home. Red meat wasn't killing people who made wholesome meals in their home and shared them with family and friends.

This isn't about shoving an agenda about the lack of family values or a pro-carnivore attitude down your throat. This is about making sure you consider the facts, and the factors and variables that can impact the value of a research study that claims you should limit your red meat consumption. I can bet you that the people in the study might have eaten at least 4 oz of red meat or processed meat a day, but it doesn't say whether they also maybe had days of 15 and 20 oz of red and processed meats packed in there too.

If you're a big eater like me, you'll be depressed the first, second and third time that you measure out how much you're eating, but take my word for it that portion sizing can make the biggest difference for you. Red meat is still fine for you; there's no true proof out there that it is bad for most people. Yet, there is definitely proof out there though that if you eat 3x as much as you should (including red and processed meats) that you will become overweight and possibly obese, and increase your risks for a lot of different diseases. The same holds true for you if you have already existing risk conditions and then try to eat red and processed meats every day - bad idea.

Simple take-home message here. Portion sizes will do wonders. Butter used to be "bad" for us, but now it's much better than most alternatives. Eggs used to be bad for us, but if you can manage your cholesterol, the eggs are a proven brain boost. Claims that red meat itself is bad for you are difficult to prove. I'm not going to stop eating it anytime soon.

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