Thursday, 2 February 2006

Myths that can kill: 1, Meat

There are some primitive myths that have survived into the modern world, and some of those myths can kill us.

Here's one: Many years ago, primitive man had a notion somewhat similar to animism; that if you could hunt down and kill the biggest, bravest, wildest animal you could find and eat some of its flesh, that you would somehow gain some part of that beast's energy and animal virility. In this spirit, beasts were sacrificed in pagan rituals and devoured in the hope of some part of that beast's life-force could be shared.

Primitive stuff, huh? Here's how that myth is played out in our modern world: A big red steak is good for you. Barbecues full of meat are good for you. A plate full of dead flesh is good for you. These are the things said by small boys and by those who don't think before they eat. Rrrrr!

Well, it's not good for you. A plate full of meat is a plateful of too much protein, too much fat, and -- if you live in North America or Europe and you don't eat organic -- too many hormones and growth promoters. All that has been known for some time. What's new today is the news that red meat really is a killer:
Eating large quantities of red meat can increase your risk of bowel cancer by producing substances in the gut that damage DNA, a study reveals today.

A comparison of cells from the lining of the colon shows that people who eat a diet high in high red meat have a "significant" increase in levels of DNA damage compared with vegetarians. This damage can increase the risk of developing cancer, say researchers at the Medical Research Council's (MRC) Dunn human nutrition unit in Cambridge...

The researchers found that when the red meat diet was compared with the vegetarian diet, there was a "consistent and significant" increase in DNA damage, while damage was intermediate with the red meat/high fibre diet...

Scientists welcomed the findings as 80% of bowel cancer is thought to be related to diet and therefore largely preventable. Each year 35,000 people in Britain are diagnosed with bowel cancer, and 16,000 of them die.

There it is. Going primitive can kill you. In the modern world there's no excuse for it.

Mankind began moved away from primitivism when we moved away from the short-term existence of hunting and gathering and began planting crops and planning long term, which is the characteristically human means of survival. The world's great civilisations were born out of this glorious transformation in human affairs, but primitivism like this still stayed with us. Today, with modern nutritional science as our guide, it's not only possible to eat well and to eat healthily with a diet that excludes red meat, it's possibly beneficial to do so -- for your health if for no other reason.

Put simply, vegetarianism is rational and life-affirming. Eating red meat is clearly not: it's primitive and health-destroying and antediluvian. If I may paraphrase from this particularly silly pronouncement:

Eating read meat clearly calls for the sacrifice of one’s actual values and happiness for an arbitrary standard. There is nothing noble or positive about sacrifice for any reason. It is literally mixing a little poison in with your food. Destroying a little of your life for no reason...

People should see the evil for what it is, and affirm their own lives as their moral standard. There should be no sympathy for those who destroy their most precious value - their own lives.

If you choose to keep eating red meat, you can't say you haven't been warned. You'll only have yourselves to blame.

Linked Article: 'DNA damage from eating red meat linked to cancer '- Guardian


  1. The report on TV recommended eatinng white meat instead. So it is not meat that is the problem but red meat, particularly the manner in which red meat is often prepared that does the damage. Frying or barbecuing meat, particularly to the point where the exterior is almost black, creates carcinogens, while stewing or boiling does not and also removes many of the toxins present in the meat.

  2. Frying, barbecuing, boiling, what you will ... the problem is not the means of preparation, it is the meat itself.

    "The report on TV recommended eatinng white meat instead." No, no, come on over to the tofu side, Mark. You know it's good for you. :-)

  3. I never read my meat :)

    but I'm not surprised. The intestines of carnivorous animals are far far shorter than ours - because meat decays and the nutritional value needs to be quickly absorbed before it becomes toxic.

    The evidence of white meat (birds, fish) being good has been around for a while. So much red meat in the UK is fatty gristly muck - it should just be an upmarket dish for occasional eating.

  4. A rececent report (I can't remember who from, someone will) that it seems that diet has little to do with bowel cancer. Once again conflicting reports. Who to believe?

  5. "Once again conflicting reports. Who to believe?"

    Perhaps you should believe "the largest study ever conducted into the health effects of meat-eating involving 500,000 Europeans in ten countries whose diets were monitored for five years."

    That would make sense, wouldn't it?

  6. I think eating excessive anything can cause some kind of problem.

    For many tens of thousands of years, our digestive system adapted to the hunter/gatherer lifestyle. We foraged and sometimes scavanged a bit of meat, or caught a small animal.

    Meat was a small, but useful part of our wide and varied diet. There would have certainly been plenty of roughage to keep the colon nice and clean!

    I'm not about to give up a tasty grilled steak, but nowadays, I reserve them for a treat.

    Years ago, each meal would have a huge chunk of mammal-flesh as the centrepeice. it's only a couple of times a week now and much smaller portions.

    Times change. I remember,as a kid, the roast having a huge chunk of dripping added to the pan. Now it's quick spray of oil!

  7. WTF? did I click on the wrong link and go to frogblog insted??

  8. "WTF? did I click on the wrong link and go to frogblog insted??"

    Hahaha. No, that's where you go for the junk science. Here we just say what's what, no matter how many sacred cows get offended that we don't eat them. ;-)

  9. Robert Winefield2 Feb 2006, 12:03:00

    Great, another correlation study! Must be true too, just like the correlation study that shows that the birth rate in Copenhagen increases at a rate similar to the number of stork sightings...

    Pity you didn't see fit to highlight these portions of the SAME report:


    "Fibre may reduce the risk because it gets rid of damaged cells..." Suggesting that those test subjects on the meat-eater's diet were fed an unbalanced regieme deficient in fibre-rich vegetables? Why because that would have clouded the results... And of course every healthy red-meat eater on the planet only eats meat don't they?


    "But the Meat and Livestock Commission pointed out that the research assessed people eating 420g (15oz) of red meat a day - over five times more than the average man's quota of 80g (3oz), and over eight times the average woman's intake of 50g."

    Half a fucking kilo of beef a day! It wasn't their bowels that were in danger it was their goddamned wallets!

    Jesus wept Peter, you've morphed into the vegetarian version of Micheal Moore! Check your 'friggin premises!

  10. All it says is a diet high in red meat is bad for you. No right-minded person would think eating 'plates of meat' often would have no negative consequences.

    I still think its rational to eat red meat in moderation as part of a balanced diet. No way am I gonna miss out on the odd steak.

    "There should be no sympathy for those who destroy their most precious value - their own lives."
    Brings me to another point - why do some Objectivists get drunk? (side effects include brain and liver damage (cirrhosis). I know what Rand said on the topic of drug use (alcohol included), so I wonder how they justify it. Just interested.

  11. If God did not want us to eat animals, how come he filled them with meat?

  12. Libertyscott said:
    "The intestines of carnivorous animals are far far shorter than ours - because meat decays and the nutritional value needs to be quickly absorbed before it becomes toxic."

    That is nonsense, the reason the digestive tracts of carnivores are so much shorter than herbivores is because meat is so much easier to digest. That is why herbivores have several stomachs and also need to chew the cud. It requires a great deal of hard work to extract the nutrition out of plant food.

  13. Robert Winefield2 Feb 2006, 14:17:00

    "The problem in understanding the relationship between diet and colon cancer arises whtn one tries to identify INDIVIDUAL dietary components that increase or decrease the risk of getting THIS cancer...

    "... most people eat a diet that consists of many different elements, and over a 20-year period, the mixture of these elements is certain to change. After all who eats the same food every day for twenty years"

    "Further, some elements of a diet may have NOTHING DIRECTLY to do with cancer susceptibility, but may just be indicative of a certain lifestyle... People who drink wine with every meal may have lower rates of colon cancer. Hower, the wine itself may have nothing to do with this protection: Drinking wine may simply be a "marker" for people who are more affluent and therefore have better access to healthier foods and better health care."

    Thoughts from Lauren Sompayrac PhD from the Dept of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. A man, I'll bet, who has spent a hell of a lot more time than PC considering the meaning of dietary studies and cancer.

    When considering such results remember that none of the "subjects" of this study enter the study with a blank dietary or health slate.

    And sudden changes in diet - required by such experiments (such as a 5-fold increase in the meat intake) - are likely to cause a person problems.

  14. Hahaha. It just gets better. "The Michael Moore of vegetarianism" yet! Hahahaha.

    Robert, you said, "Great, another correlation study! Must be true too, just like the correlation study that shows that the birth rate in Copenhagen increases at a rate similar to the number of stork sightings..."

    Well, it did study 500,000 Europeans across ten countries whose various diets were monitored for five years, which makes for an awful lot of stork sightings.

    And importantly, this latest finding follows that original study and shows the necessary causal link to explain its findings, without which any correlative study is only conjecture, however wide the survey. So I'd say it's pretty clear, even if it doesn't itself mention or recognise the primitiveness of meat eating, and meat eaters. :-) [Meat also stunts your growth, you know.]

    BTW, how many grams of meat do you eat a day? However the Meat & Livestock Commission try and spin it, the original atudy looked at a huge range of real diets eaten by 500,000 people, and the more recent research component compared three different diets (not just one):

    the scientists monitored 21 volunteers who were subjected to three fortnight-long diets. First they feasted on meat rich meals featuring a large amount of beef and pork, then they moved onto vegetarian fare, followed by a third period of omnivorous eating but with a higher fibre content.

    Cells from the lining of the volunteers’ colons were obtained from stool samples, which revealed varying amounts of DNA damage, with the meat diet resulting in the greatest genetic impact.

    Researchers from the Open University (OU) department of chemistry in Milton Keynes have previously shown that chemicals derived from compounds in meat can lead to changes in DNA code. It is this mechanism which is thought to elevate bowel cancer risk.

    So, yeah, I think the research has been done, and the conclusions are valid. You'd hardly expect meat-eaters or the Meat & Livestock Commission to be doing handsprings over it though, now would you?

    Says Mark V. "It requires a great deal of hard work to extract the nutrition out of plant food."

    It really depends on which plants you're consuming, doesn't it, and how exactly you choose to prepare them. And if you aren't a cow and you choose to eat grass, you really would be the Michael Moore of vegetarianism, wouldn't you. :-)

    And another thing, asks James G.: "Why do some Objectivists get drunk? (side effects include brain and liver damage (cirrhosis). I know what Rand said on the topic of drug use (alcohol included), so I wonder how they justify it. Just interested."

    Good question. I'll answer that one afternoon, if someone doesn't do so before I do.

  15. I had a mate who hooked up with a vegetarian woman. Lips that touch meat will never touch mine etc. so he converted for the sake of love. We had a lot of incessant hard work to do on the job. This joker let the team down. He insisted he felt better, earbashed us all on the wonders of healthy eating and gradually he wasted away under the effects of low protein and high activity. He was a pain in the bum. We did his work as well as ours. Later on the girl dropped him for a real chauvinist who not ate red meat but delighted in killing his own

  16. Robert Winefield2 Feb 2006, 17:05:00

    "Well, it did study 500,000 Europeans across ten countries whose various diets were monitored for five years, which makes for an awful lot of stork sightings."

    Unhuh, and how was the monitoring done? By voluntary survey no doubt...

    Course I can't tell because the "Study out today" isn't, in fact, out today. It isn't on Pubmed, probably because the "journal Cancer Research" doesn't fucking exist.

    Perhaps - in your own words "you'd better put up or shut up." :P

    I'll give you this though, Dr S Bingham does exist and among her landmark discoveries is this little gem:

    "We were the first to show that phytoestrogens, present in soy foods, could alter hormone levels in women, and thus perhaps risk of hormone related cancers."

    Better stop eating that Tofu Peter.

    So what do we have here?

    If true - and who am I to doubt the main stream British media - all the study says is that eating red meat can lead to DNA damage - presumeably in the colon epithelial tissues which are in closest contact to the "toxic" nitrates and are constantly dividing.

    The problem however isn't simply a case of banning red meat consumption and you'll eradicate colon cancer.

    Colon cancer normally occurs in adults over 50. Why? Because most cancers progress through stages of increase malignancy, as over time, various DNA control, DNA REPAIR, & Cell SELF-DESTRUCT systems are corrupted.

    So, to show a true correlation in colon cancer rates - you'd have to study your sample populations for 50 years.

    You'd have to account for all known cancer causing factors and for the location of the population because it turns out that there is an interesting relationship between colon cancer and geography.

    Relative Colon Cancer Death Rates:
    Location - Approx Rel. Death Rate
    Sth Africa - 1.0
    Cent Africa - 1.5
    Aust/NZ - 3
    Japan - 13
    West Europe - 31
    Nth America - 34
    China - 42

    Pisani P et al International Journal of Cancer Volume 83, Issue 1, Date: 24 September 1999, Pages: 18-29

    Note to PC: This article actually HAS been published. :P

    So, if Red meat is such a huge factor in colon cancer why the difference between Europe/America and Aust/NZ. Ethnically the population of Australia/NZ and Europe/America are similar, they are all developed countries with similar dietry habits.

    The answer is that the Red-meat study is only a guide for further research.

    CLUE: "...may give us some clues about developing a screening test for very early changes related to the disease." SCREENING! The holy grail of cancer research. We already have the drugs to kill cancer cells (trust me, helping to improving these drugs is what I do for a day job). The problem is that we just can't detect & locate cancer cells early enough.

    Can eating excessive amounts of red-meat give you trouble? Yes - that's as certain as a vegetarian's flatulance is potent.

    But remember, to get full blown cancer several control systems in the pre-cancerous cell must fail. Evolution has equipped humans with a ruthlessly efficient way of rubbing out cells with utterly ruined DNA. That's a good thing too, considering that the DNA in each cell of your body takes 25,000 mutational hits per day from urbane things like sunlight, ionizing radiation from radon gas & other naturally occuring isotopes, air-pollution, water-pollution, bad-luck, bad-genes and bad advice.

    What I want to know, and what PC and the Guardian fail to tell me was whether mutations in the usual colon-cancer-causing-genes (ABC, KRAS, SMAD, and p53) were found to be accumulating in live colon cells. Were that to be the case - and were the meat-eating subjects of the study actually fed a normal balanced meat-containing diet, then maybe I'd take PC's admonishments about meat to heart.

    As it is, this study is about as stinky as all the other science reports that the UK media has sneak-previewed. GE-crops & global warming anyone?

  17. If this is a ruse to get more comments PC, then you have certainly succeeded!

    That "pronouncement" you linked to is correct to claim that vegetarianism cannot be supported on the grounds that it is wrong to kill animals. What parts did you paraphrase: I can't see any relationship.

    Meat eating may be primitive, but so too are other things, including sex. Are you going to give that up as well?

    There is nothing finer that a well-prepared fillet, and I am not going to forego this culinary pleasure for the sake of ameliorating a little risk (and I don't accept that the link is proven).

  18. Robert Winefield2 Feb 2006, 17:33:00

    PC asked:

    "BTW, how many grams of meat do you eat a day?"

    Answer about 1/5th of the mass of vegetables I eat per day. If I were over dosing on anything it's oatmeal.

    PC then quoted:

    "Cells from the lining of the volunteers’ colons were obtained from stool samples, which revealed varying amounts of DNA damage, with the meat diet resulting in the greatest genetic impact."

    Two assumptions:

    (1) That the cells remaining in the body had accumulated the same mutations.

    (2) That there were mutations were accumulating at an increased rate in the cells that remained in the intestine? Remember that the epithelial cells in the intestine have a life span of about a week.

    (3) Nothing is said about whether there are more epithelial cells in the stool of red-meat eaters. That would also account for increased DNA mutation: more cells - more mutation. I'd be interested to see if such a diet caused an change in the rate of epithelial cell growth. Maybe, without the fibre to rub out cells, epithelial cells last longer than their average week and so accumulate more mutations. Such a point of order is surely to be raised in the discussion if it is valid/known and if you cite the study rather than just quote from it, I might be able to "Fisk" it for myself.

    As I said above. The mutations that count - as far as cancer goes - are the ones that accumulate in growing cells that remain in the body. Mutations in the DNA of dead cells found in stool are harmless.

    To be sure it's an interesting idea. People who eat a lot of red meat are more likely to get colon cancer - that is if hardened arteries, obesity, BSE and the cost of beef in Kansas doesn't kill them first...

  19. Robert Winefield2 Feb 2006, 18:06:00

    And I've finally tracked down the paper. Note to the Guardian: This is how you cite a journal article:

    Lewin, MH et al. Cancer Research 2006 vol66: pp1859-1865.

    And I note that the authors of this article are a lot less certain of the "link" between meat and colon cancer than either Peter or the Guardian proclaim.

    Observe the final summation in the abstract:

    "As these O6CMG adducts are not repaired, and if other related adducts are formed and not repaired, this may explain the association of red meat with colorectal cancer"

    Observe also that the volunteers were only checked for 15 days (sudden changes in diet have been known to cause problems - as visitors to India & Pakistan will attest) and were locked in a "suite" the whole time. One wonders what effect this artificial environment had on the study. One also wonders how the volunteers were chosen and what they ate prior to entering the suite.

    Questions galore. The answers to which may have a bearing on the truth of Peter's proclaimation.

    Course I can't find out without paying US$15 for the article. Me thinks that cost should be bourne by he who makes the claim...

  20. Nice fisking Robert. I still think PC is having us on - or that somebody took some cells from his colon and inserted them in his brain :)

  21. To paraphrase Billy Connolly:

    "Sure you might get another fortnight's longevity by eating mung beans and tofu and driving a beige Nissan, but that extra fortnight won't be added on when you are 32 and shagging like a stallion, it'll be when you are 97 and eating through a straw having had other people wipe your arse for you for the last twelve years"

    So when I die at 76, able bodied and from having enjoyed life, I'll look down from above on you Peter as the nurses put a new straw in your mouth and change your adult Depends, and hear you pray for it all to end cursing each herbivoric mouthful you have ever had and the misery it has brought you.

  22. Now I'm hungry...

  23. So who's up for driving a steak through the RMA's heart?


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