Should you eat red meat? The longevity perspective

Pros and cons of eating red meat

January 1, 2021

This article was originally published on on January 8, 2020.

Reading time: 4 min

Should you eat red meat?

This is a long and hotly debated topic. Not only because steaks taste good but also because this is a huge industry. So people get emotional. I stopped being emotional about food and treat as a source of nutrients my body needs to function optimally — fibers and resistant starch (carbs), amino acids (proteins), and fatty acids (fats). This is not to say I don’t enjoy food — I do enjoy it a lot but I’m not attached to it.

Not being emotional helps you look at the foods more objectively.

So the good news is that you should eat meat. Being vegan stresses your thyroid function and puts you at an increased risk of autoimmune disease.

The bad news is that you should only eat little (ideally, 100–200g/4–8oz per week) and high quality (grass-fed and grass-FINISHED or heritage breed in the case of pork). The high quality requirement means is that it’s best to avoid steaks and burgers at restaurants — they are from grain-fed cows.


My weekly serving of red meat — 4 oz of heritage pork with bok choy, kale, arugula, avocado, and red onions

Why is that?

(1) Meat contains a lot of methionine and isoleucine — two major “growth” amino acids.

They activate the mTOR pathway which is associated with aging and cancer. So if you don’t want to age sooner than you can and want to minimize the risk of cancer, it’s best to reduce the amount of these amino acids. Also stop taking BCAA if you do — they might lead to mTOR overexpression.

(2) Meat (cows, pigs, lambs) contain a sugar molecule called Neu5Gc.

It’s found in high amounts in human cancer cells. Humans cannot synthesize it (we have Neu5Ac) so it likely comes from food.

(3) Your gut produces a compound called TMAO when you eat red meat.

TMAO is associated with DNA damage, cancer, and heart disease. It’s important to say that the causation link hasn’t been proven in this case. It’s possible that TMAO is a disease marker, not its cause.

(4) Red meat is usually grilled which produces HCA and PAH carcinogens.

HCA has been shown to cause mitochondrial degeneration decreasing the cell metabolic capacity (i.e., the ability to produce energy). This may lead to cancer. PAH has been shown to cause disruption of apoptosis (a mechanism of controlled cell death; pronounced “apoTOsis”). When apoptosis is disrupted, cancerous cells may proliferate instead of being cleaned out by apoptosis.

Check out the longevity principle #3 to learn more about mitochondrial health.

(5) Red meat tops the list of iron rich foods which may lead to oxygen deficit in mitochondria and accelerate aggregation of amyloid-beta proteins in the brain cells and formation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) in the cells, among other issues.

Did you know that, according to the social security mortality stats, females in the U.S. have a 3% chance of reaching 100 years old while males — a 1% chance? Part of the reason may be due to the menstrual cycles in females which decreases the iron levels in the blood. So having a lower iron level is advantageous and eating less red meat would help with that.

While iron is important in many biological functions, there are some caveats:

Pro-tip: to cover the bases of excess iron, consider supplementing with fisetin, a phytochemical found in strawberries, apples, and other fruits and vegetables with strong anti-aging benefits. Fisetin can effectively chelate iron reducing its levels in the blood.

(6) Red meat in restaurants is grain-fed.

It means that it is loaded with pro-inflammatory Omega-6 acids (because corn and grain are sources of pro-inflammatory Omega 6). In addition, cows are ruminants — they are meant to ferment plant-based foods. When they eat grain, they get inflamed themselves. That’s one of the reasons why they get antibiotics injections for most of their life. The other reason is that it boosts their growth and makes them fat, i.e., tasty for humans, but makes them struggle and more susceptible to disease. You might get some antibiotics too when you eat their meat in the form of antibiotics resistant bacteria. If you’re vegan, you’re also at risk because grain-fed cows manure is often used as a fertilizer. Not only that, according to Michael Pollan, grain-fed cows have a heavier environmental footprint because they do not need fertilizer, pesticides, and fossil fuels. So when you eat grain-fed beef, you might contribute more to the global warming. Although, there are mixed views on which type of beef produces less carbon dioxide.

But why then do you still need to eat meat?

Grass-fed/-finished meat is a great source of good fats.

(1) Omega 3 — anti-inflammatory fatty acids.

Studies show that vegans consume too much Omega 6 which suppresses thyroid signaling (leading to inflammation).

(2) CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) — a good (rare) type of Omega 6.

CLA is produced by fermentation of plant-based foods — that’s why cows are called ruminants.

Grain-fed cows have 3–5x less Omega-3 and CLA in their meat than grass-fed/-finished cows.

In the longevity principles, you can read more about the connection of different types of food and health and longevity.

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