Meat and mortality

raw-meat-1

The news is abuzz with reports of the latest study to come out showing that eating meat, especially red meat, kills us off before our time.  (You can read some of the reporting here, here, here and here.)  Google shows 547 new articles about this study.

Although this study is totally worthless from a causality perspective because it is an observational study, it does serve to confirm the biases of those non-critical thinkers who have already bought into the idea that meat is bad.  To give you an example of such a soft thinker, here is the second comment on the blog post about this study in the New York Times.

I could have told you that 30 years ago. I been a vegetarian for 47 years and I have never seen vegetarians die from heart disease or cancer. They died from basic infectious diseases and malnutrition. Make no mistake it is harder to be a vegetarian than a carnivour but your body does not expel everying [sic] that is in the meat especially red meat.

Red meat is the major culprin [sic] in colon cancer. I actually know people who have colon cancer gene that only eat a no red meat diet and have no issues with their colon. Of course they also do not smoke or drink too much alcohol.

Red meat lobby is very powerful in America – Let them pay for this!

Ah, yes, an enlightened cogitator indeed.

The study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine (free full text here) is a typical epidemiological or observational study.  The reports have it tarted up with a lot of fancy clothes, but it is really nothing but an observational study.  And, as we’ve gone over ad nauseum in these pages, observational studies can’t be used to prove causation.

Even if they could, this study would be questionable at best because the relative risk (RR) is slightly over 1.0.  Because of the nature of the difficulty in doing these kinds of studies with any kind of accuracy it takes a RR of over at least 2.0 to get the serious attention of anyone who doesn’t have a built-in bias.

What I found more interesting than this study (which isn’t interesting or important at all) was the press coverage of it.  And I found especially interesting that which the press didn’t report.

Scientific journals have a couple of ways of getting their articles out there ahead of publication, so that the press can do stories on them.  If it works out right, the reports all hit the media on the same day that the article itself is published.  Doctors who read the journal often find out in their morning newspaper about a new paper before they even get their journal in the mail later that same day.  Many of the larger journals, Archives of Internal Medicine, for example, will issue press releases the week before on those papers coming out that the editors feel are important.  These press releases go to anyone with press credentials (I even get them), and are embargoed until the date of publication of the journal.  Reporters get advanced copies of the papers and get the editor’s (and maybe even the author’s) take on the paper.  Journalists can then write their stories to be timed with publication of the paper.

Another way followed by a number of journals is to publish papers online in advance of their actual publication date.  Reporters troll these advanced online articles looking for material for stories and often write them up for publication before the paper in question makes it into actual publication in the journal.

At the same time that this paper appeared, showing increased red meat consumption to be tied to a slight increased risk of death (and showing that those subjects eating white meat had less risk), a couple of other papers came out in the online pre-publication section of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN), arguably the world’s most prestigious nutritional scientific journal.  These two AJCN papers saw the light of day at around the same time as this highly-publicized study on meat and mortality, but demonstrated the opposite results.  They got no press coverage whatsoever.  Which proves what I’ve been saying all along: the press is biased against meat in general, and especially against red meat.  Knowing this, careful readers should take anything negative thing the media reports about red meat with an enormous grain of salt.

Let’s look at the other two studies published in AJCN.

The first is titled Meta-analysis of animal fat or animal protein intake and colorectal cancer.  One of the constant themes anti meat people like to hammer out is that meat intake, especially red meat intake, causes colon or colorectal cancer.  This is heard so often that most people take it for granted, assuming that there must be a ton of research backing it up.  As this paper points out, there isn’t.

The association between total dietary fat, including fat constituents such as saturated fat, monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, and cholesterol, and risk of colorectal cancer has been evaluated in numerous epidemiologic [observational] studies.  Results from these analytic investigations have generally been mixed.  Whereas some studies have reported positive associations, several studies have observed null and inverse associations.  In a pooled analysis of data from 13 case-controlled studies, risk of colorectal cancer was found to increase significantly with increasing categories of total daily energy intake.  In the same analysis, and after adjustment for total energy intake, the authors observed no evidence of an energy-independent effect of total dietary fat or specific fat components other than cholesterol.  In fact, many of the associations among men and women were in the inverse direction [i.e., more animal fat equals greater longevity].

Animal foods and meat products contain both saturated and unsaturated fats; however, similar to analyses of total fat intake, several studies have not observed any consistent epidemiologic evidence of an association between saturated fat or polyunsaturated fat intake and risk of colorectal cancer.  Although some studies reported positive associations for consumption of saturated fat, nonsignificant associations at or near the null value [no association] or inverse associations have been observed in numerous cohort studies and case-control studies.

This paper goes on to discuss how the hypothesis that fat and meat intake are a bad thing healthwise got kicked off way back in the 1960s from a presentation at a symposium. In shades of Ancel Keys and his discredited Seven Countries Study, a researcher named Ernst Wynder used the international food and cancer mortality data to demonstrate an increase in colorectal cancer as a correlate of increasing oil and fat consumption.  The hypothesis, although never proven, has been with us since.  The authors of this paper set out to study it once again.

Here is what they did:

To clarify the potential association between animal fat intake and colorectal cancer, we conducted a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies in which data for animal fat were available.  In addition, we identified case-control studies that reported results for animal fat intake and combined data from these studies with the prospective cohort data in separate analyses.  Because the primary macronutrients in the consumption of animals include protein and fat, we also conducted a separate meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies in which data categorized as animal protein or meat were available.

After sifting through all this data, what did the authors find?  Absolutely nothing.  No correlation between meat and/or fat intake and colorectal cancer.

In this meta-analysis, no consistent evidence of a positive association between  consumption of animal fat and colorectal cancer was observed.  Specifically, we found no association  between the highest animal fat intake category and colorectal cancer.  Furthermore, none of the subgroup analysis (i.e., sex, anatomic tumor site, and study design) indicated positive patterns of associations.

And their conclusion:

On the basis of the results of this quantitative assessment, the available epidemiologic evidence does not appear to support an independent association between animal fat intake or animal protein intake and colorectal cancer.

Like the study above showing the slight correlation between red meat intake and decreased longevity, this study is an observational study, and, as such, doesn’t demonstrate any kind of definitive proof.  But what I find galling is that the meat and mortality study hit all the airwaves and this study – made available to the media at the same time – received zero press.

Yet another study in the advanced online section of AJCN titled Mortality in British vegetarians: results from the European Prospective Investigation in Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC-Oxford) shows that things ain’t always as they seem.  Yet the press refuses to pick up and report this man-bites-dog story.

If you ask the man on the street (who has been fed a load of bunkum over the years by the press) if vegetarians or non-vegetarians are healthier and live longer, you will almost assuredly be told that vegetarians are the healthiest.  Most people believe this, but they just don’t want to make the sacrifice to follow the vegetarian lifestyle.  They are willing to give up a couple of years of life to not have to live on a steady diet of beans, tofu, vegetables, fruits and dry bread.  You would think that if a study came out from a prestigious institution (Oxford) published in a top-line scientific journal showing that vegetarians don’t live any longer than non-vegetarians and actually have a higher incidence of some particularly nasty cancers (but slightly lower rates of death from heart disease) it would be newsworthy.  But the press has totally ignored this study just like they did the last one.

This vegetarian study was interesting on a couple of levels.  Not only did it not show a difference in longevity between vegetarians and nonvegetarians, it showed major increases in longevity just from being in the study.  Not long ago I wrote a post about a statin study in which I discussed the adherer verses the non-adherer effect.  A number of studies have shown that subjects who take all their medicines as directed – even the placebos – live longer and/or do better than those who takes their medications irregularly.  There is something about people who go the extra mile that makes them live longer than those who don’t.

In this Oxford University vegetarian study, vegetarian subjects were recruited by all sorts of methods.  Those in the study cast out their nets for other vegetarians and recruitment was done through all kinds of advertising venues.  Those accepted into the study -both vegetarians and non vegetarians – had to jump through a fair number of hoops to get accepted and stay in the study.  And to stay in the study for the ten plus years that it went on.  After the study period, the numbers of deaths in the two groups was tallied, and it was found that vegetarians didn’t live any longer than non-vegetarians.  As a percentage, the number of deaths in each group was the same.

What’s more interesting to me, however, is the difference between the rate of deaths in both the vegetarian and non-vegetarian subjects as compared to their neighbors who weren’t in the study.  The researchers calculated the standard mortality ratios (SMRs) for vegetarians and non-vegetarians from deaths before the age of 90 years old as compared to the mortality rate for non-study subjects living in the same area.

The SMR is the ratio of the observed number of deaths to the number of deaths expected from the national rates, standardized for sex and age, and expressed as a percentage.

In other words, if the observed number of deaths in the study group had been three quarters of that expected in a similar population from the area, the SMR would have been 75 percent.  And would have been a striking finding to boot.  It would have meant that just being in the study reduced one’s risk of death.

When all the data was tallied, the SMR for all causes of death among study subjects was only 52 percent, and was identical in vegetarians and nonvegetarians!  It didn’t matter if you were a vegetarian or a nonvegetarian, as long as you were in this study you were about half as likely to die as your neighbor who wasn’t in the study.  Now that’s an adherer effect in spades.  And I would think pretty newsworthy.  But, like the study above on meat and colorectal cancer, it was completely ignored by the press.

The point of this post is that you shouldn’t get wound up about a study that gets reported throughout the media because there are more than likely other studies that are just as well done and just as important showing exactly the opposite findings that the press chooses to ignore.  You’re not seeing the science as it is, you’re seeing the science as the press wants you to see it, which, typically, is the way that confirms the bias of members of the press.

As a journalist friend of ours once remarked:  what is news?  News is whatever the reporter decides it is.  In my opinion, they decided wrongly in this case.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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157 thoughts on “Meat and mortality

  1. I knew you were going to get your hands on this one. Thanks to spending hours reading your blog, I think that a lot of us have developed a nice critical eye for these studies. The bias and poor research methods are blatantly obvious. Thank you Dr. Mike for all that you do!

    Most of the old time readers can dissect one of these studies in their sleep. I do this from time to time for newbees.

  2. I, too, blogged on this issue, more from the environmental angle since that was mentioned in so many of the popular reports on this study: http://www.fa-rm.org/blog/2009/03/more-on-meat-and-sustainability-and.html

    I appreciate your commentary on the “dietary” science. I’ve been looking forward to that. It particularly bugs me when dietary “science” and “advocacy science” are both in the same article… and both share the fundamental lack of grounding in evolutionary biology. Pathetic.

    “Red meat lobby is very powerful in America – Let them pay for this!”

    errrr…. Who is this guy kidding? ALL animal products receive a whopping 8% of farm subsidies from the USDA. The same amount ALONE goes to the darling of the vegan movement: soy. Not to mention the rest of the recipients of the rest of the 84% of farm subsidies, ALL plant crops.

    I’m sure it wasn’t lost on you that the many popular reports on this study in the press had some additional pseudoscientific greenie crapola coming out the ying yang at the end of the article… typically about how meat causing global warming. I’ve written about that before, the links are embedded in the link provided above. I’d welcome critical comments or questions from your readers.

    I contemplated for about five seconds getting in to all the ‘greenie crapola,’ but then the post would have dragged on forever. It was hard to resist, though, given the nauseating editorial about this study by Barry Popkin in the same issue. What a load of pseudoscientific BS is was. I’m glad you tackled the green issues.

  3. Ernst Wynder impressed me at the time, not because of his research, but the fact that he was dating Kim Novak (she was major gorgeous). And I just responded to poster #2, asking him whether he’d ever heard of Linda McCartney, vegan, dead at 56 from breast cancer. My boneless pork loin chops await me for dinner.

    Marly

    Let me know if you hear back from the twit.

  4. When I heard this report on NPRs All Things Considered, I was flabbergasted. They are usually much better. Needless to say, I wrote them a polite note explaining the difference between correlation and causality (I used the umbrellas causes rain analogy). I pointed out that the study was only the first step in a real scientific analysis and that it just as easily proved that cancer causes people to eat red meat. It will be interesting to see if they read it on air.

    Interesting, indeed.

  5. Great read Dr, I logged into your blog first thing this morning when I heard this alarmist piece on the morning drive radio today here in Tampa. Pure absurdity. One thing I did notice was that the Dr quoted in the study was Indian or of Indian descent. Since many Indians don’t eat beef and consider cows sacred, shouldn’t this have been one obvious red flag about his objectivity in this study? I wonder if they’ll have a study on adults who regularly eat ice cream dying prematurely.

  6. Thanks for weighing in on this one, Dr. Mike, and for the perspective of the other studies published in the AJCN. It’s amazing to me that reporters and vegetarians never consider how mankind managed to survive an evolutionary history as a hunter and meat eater.

  7. I saw a report on the news last night that must have been this “study.” There was some woman whose name I can’t recall discussing it who said that you shouldn’t eat red meat more than once a week. I just laughed because I eat at least 5 rib eye steaks a week, among other beef products. And honestly, how is any of this still news that they feel the need to air it anymore… it is ingrained in our subconscious by now, rightly or wrongly.

    I know that part of the reason red meat has gotten a bad rap is because of its fat content, but I’m curious as to how beef meat verses chicken (or other “acceptable”) meat is digested. If the small intestine breaks down protein into amino acids, by this time, is there any significant difference as to what the source of the protein was? I suppose it might be pointless to ask why people would think red meat but not other meats would “sit in your body for days?”

    All meat is digested the same. It’s broken down into its various macronutrient components, and these are then absorbed. The idea that red meat sits in the body for days is absolutely preposterous. It’s actually digested fairly quickly.

    • My first question would be “What are they feeding these ‘high cholesterol’ dogs?” We all know that if we, as humans, eat a high grain diet, it can seriously affect our behavior even resulting in “tail chasing”. It couldn’t possibly be a high grain diet affecting their behavior?!! No, just blame the cholesterol levels clogging everything up!

  8. Thank you for taking the time to refute this onslaught of news articles. Honestly, I am amazed at your tenacity in keeping up with them. I’ve begun to reach the point of exasperation and just tell my carb-loving friends to “eat whatever you want, I just don’t care anymore.”

    So thanks for not giving up on us. There are many of us who appreciate your hard work over the years.

    A previous poster got me thinking so I looked up both Linda McCartney and Robert Atkins on Wikipedia. Linda McCartney, ardent vegitarian, died at the age of 56 of breast cancer. Robert Atkins, ardent low-carb doctor, died at the age of 72 of trauma to the head after slipping on ice.

    The irony is that I have had people question me on Dr. Atkins’ death all of the time. “Didn’t he die?” *sigh* It would be sad if it weren’t true, but a low-carb doctor can die from trauma at an old age and it was “his diet that killed him”, but a vegitarian can die of cancer and the response is to ask for our support by becoming vegans ourselves. (Paraphrased from her husbands quote in Wikipedia.)

    Dr. Mike, you need to do us all a favor and live to be 120-years old. And make sure when you do finally go out it is while battling crocodiles as you parachute out of a flaming helicopter on your way to an iron-man competition.

    (They’ll still say you died from low-carb. But the crocodile part of the story would be funny.)

    I’ll try to hang in there to 120. Maybe longer, especially if I don’t have to do battle with crocodiles. :-)

  9. Gee, I missed the brou-ha-ha over the meat study.

    Oh well. We’ve been hitting the slopes at Whistler while my husband slaves at a conference (we only manage to ski because he gets some good Gordon Conference chair gigs) and eating huge amounts of meat.

    We’re staying at a rental apartment with a kitchen, so each morning we’ve fueled ourselves with pork sausage patties and some very nice pastured eggs I found at the market. The market has a deli to “die for” (how prophetic), with lots of very traditional and authentic charcuterie (landjaeger!), as well as seasoned lamb skewers for our dinner the first night (warmed leftovers the second night). On a mid-afternoon breaks from the slopes we refueled from our backpack with stick pepperoni, sliced salami, leftover breakfast sausage, a really nice herbed liver paté saussage, cubes of Kerrygold cheddar, and sliced apple to cut the richness a bit. Oh, a bit of dark chocolate with our coffee at a summit stop, too. Our one restaurant dinner was a steak and prime rib place – we were hungry for more meat.

    Best skiing experience of my life, and the mountain is only part of it. I learned to ski as an 30 yo adult, so even at 47 yo I still have to work very hard at it, and normally I’m wiped by now. I think this great increase in capacity this trip is due to the fantastic energy from burning fat for fuel instead of quickly depleted carbs, and the 1-1/2 months of pre-ski strength exercises with the Slow Burn home version workout for about 30 minutes, twice a week. Hard to reconcile my positive experiences with all the baloney in the media about meat (and chronic cardio, too).

  10. yes yes yes, I totally agree with the comment about noting the possible racial/cultural background of the physician… as someone of Indian heritage myself, I am always wary when my own people bash red meat and meat in general as it is always easiest to bash something you do not eat… (I do the same of most vegetables :)

  11. The funny thing about this study, is it’ doesn’t even seem to really be about red meat specifically anyway.

    What I’m seeing is a survey about people’s habits. People who eat more junk food are also more likely to smoke, drink, be overweight, not eat vegetables, not exercise, etc. And people with piles of bad habits are less healthy. “Survey says bad habits tend to stick together” is what the headlines SHOULD have been. Instead, they just extracted the one factor that a lot of the meat in fast food happens to be beef (ignoring how much white flour and refined sugar is also in such diets) and wrote the paper around that.

    It is a study about people’s habits disguised as a study on the health consequences of red meat.

  12. > readers should take anything negative the media reports about red meat with an enormous grain of salt

    Not only have you rejected the gospel on red meat but now you encourage excessive sodium in the diet. Outrageous.

    Outrageous, indeed!

  13. However….this report on the BBC just last week said that vegetarians get more colon cancer than meat eaters: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7942479.stm said that:

    “Analysis of data from 52,700 men and women shows that those who did not eat meat had significantly fewer cancers overall than those who did. But surprisingly, the researchers also found a higher rate of colorectal cancer – a disease linked with eating red meat – among the vegetarians.”

    Surprising that our ancestors didn’t all die of cancer ! Mind you, what kind of meat do some of the people in these studies eat ? I only eat meat from organically reared animals…I’m sure it makes a difference…..and I never eat processed foods. We have some vegetarian friends who eat pure junk, white bread, chips, junk pizzas – they are grossly overweight too.

    Anne

  14. I found your blog and others about nutrition two months ago, and the least I can say is that it changed my way of life. And my perception. Coming from a scientific community (math) where frauds are usually rapidly discovered and burnt, I was in a state of passive intellectual acceptance with medical research. You know, we do our job well, so they must do…I would never have suspected that there were so many logic fallacies in medical science.
    So thanks for opening my eyes. Moreover thanks for the link to ajcn, it will give me some readings!

    By the way, I lost 10cm of waist in two months with the change of diet, and i ‘m NEVER hungry!

    Thanks for the note. Glad to hear you’re doing so well. Sadly medical research, and especially nutritional research, is not nearly as self-regulating as other hard sciences. It’s too bad.

  15. Dr Mike Now we know what killed off Tyranasaurus Rex and the Neanderthals! Too much red meat in their diet.

    So that’s what it was.

  16. haha, I was sitting in a cafe in lower manhattan enjoying a big bunless burger with bacon, cheese and a fried egg on top of it when this story come on CNN above the nearby bar. They presented it as fact, red meat will shorten your life. No doubt about it. I just laughed to myself and enjoyed my burger.

    Later I did a blog google, there were hundreds simply parroting this story. The only contrarian voice I found was from the American Meat Institute. Or some such organ. They correctly pointed out what an outrage that this sort of sloppy science has been pushed out with major media fanfare, while other contradicting stories, (I think the ones you covered), are ignored.

    And for dinner, it was a guiltless giant ribeye for dinner! Fantastic!

    • I am tempted to say, as my father’s father said, “All the more for the rest of us.”

      Of course, the health effects of the veg*n diet will be paid for by us, one way or another.

  17. Maybe science is merely a question of faith, i.e. we believe it therefore it must be true. Thank you Dr Eades for yet another reasoned post.

  18. Great post again. Though I had already read the study and laughed at it. I found the bias you mentioned telling in the authors’ comments. Among other things I noticed was their questionnaire had all kinds of questions related to carbs in the diet but none of those statistics were in the study. Of course, everything knows that carbs are good for you and meat/fat are evil so no need to mention that.

    @ John, nice to see other people from Tampa on here and doing their own thinking.

    Joe

  19. Good stuff. Did you happen to read the abstract (or article) in the same issue regarding statins and metabolism? I’ve only read the abstract, but promoting statins on the basis of this data is pretty scary. Metformin prevented weight gain (why not promoted weight loss?) and improved glycemic control as evidenced by a 0.4% reduction in HbA1C. 0.4% in nearly 400 people, yeah right. And the icing on the cake, no change in primary end point. Me thinks me knows the answer.

    Haven’t seen the article yet, but I’ll take a look soon.

  20. I gave up on beef many years back (and missed out on the BSE problems) because the stuff that was then available appeared to have died of old age and then been rejected by the shoe factory.

    This grain fed hormone stuffed crap is poles apart from the Real Beef I now have access to. Likewise the overprocessed rubbish injected with protein and water and marinated in nitrites bears little resemblence. Just a few of the confounding factors between meat and meatlike substances which may explain the different results in these studies.

    The BBC jumps on board

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7959128.stm

    on the TV news they are talking about government control of canteen food to ensure that it is “nutritionally balanced” but that one hasn’t made it onto the website yet. The government are also increasing their internet monitoring so I’m expecting a visit from the Carb Police real soon now.

  21. According to the study’s numbers, the red meat eaters were significantly fatter, less educated, smoked more, exercised less, consumed more calories, ate fewer fruits and veggies, took fewer vitamins/supplements, and drank less. The only surprise (to me) was drinking less, but perhaps elderly participants drink wine for health more than drink beer to party.

    From these indicators, the red meat eaters were less health conscious. And by deduction, the red meat eaters likely ate more bread/wheat, potatoes/pasta/starches, cokes/sweets and other typical American diet staples that could have alternatively explained their higher mortality rates.

    If anything, this study shows that health conscious people eat less red meat, even if doing so is ineffective or even counterproductive. That is, it proves red meat bashing has been effective on those that listen to health recommendations. There are too many variables in the study to make any conclusions about red meat or any single factor.

    Yep, this study used red meat as a surrogate for poor health. Sadly, most people who want to stay healthy have bought into the idiotic idea that red meat is bad for them. As a consequence, most healthy people try to avoid too much of it. Those who eat red meat in large quantities, for the most part, are either those enlightened folks who subscribe to low-carb diets (a minority) or those who simply don’t give a flip (the majority). And those who don’t give a flip tend to drink more, smoke more, carry more weight, and, in general, are less healthy.

  22. Hi Doc,

    I just finished reading Good Calories/Bad Calories, per your suggestion — a somewhat difficult task but very worth the effort. The funny thing is, for example, my wife thinks the author is a quack, because she would rather trust the ‘medical experts.’ What a laugh! But will she read the book? Of course not. I love her to pieces however, and she is just typical of the mainstream I guess.

    It is so nice, when we hear these ‘headlines’ re: studies, to be able to listen with a critical ear — I now well understand that I need to be on the lookout for the difference between observational studies and cause and effect conclusions, the fact that 1.5 times, for example, a very small number is still a very small number, and studies that use ridiculous levels of a substance as their basis, to name a few. Even though I know that I need to take everything both the press and study authors say with a grain of salt, I have been checking your blog daily to see your take on this study, as you put in the effort and have the expertise to bring these concepts down to Earth so us mere mortals (a compliment to you, not an insult to anyone else) can have a better grasp.

    So, thank you for your hard work.

    Now, can I ask if you have any plans to discuss the african mango extract news articles from this week? I guess it’s not brand new news, but it sounds like it may actually be something consistent with low carb theory/metabolic processes?

    Thanks!

    I don’t have a clue about the african mango extract story. I haven’t seen anything about it. But, I don’t get out much, you know.

  23. I greatly appreciate the effort you put into illuminating the differences between observational and more rigorous studies. I know I have learned a lot from it. Recently I ran across an old study (1977) on the metabolic response of sled dogs to zero carb, high fat, and high carb diets.
    http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/30/3/409
    They divided dogs into three groups, fed each group a specific diet and took blood for several tests over a period of weeks.

    How do you characterize this type of study? How do you get a placebo or a control group when you are doing a side by side comparison of different things?

    It is a controlled trial. The dogs were divided into three groups, each of which followed a different diet while keeping other parameters the same. The differences in findings can therefore be attributed to the differences in diet.

  24. yes Thank you for doing all the legwork on this Dr MIke. I’ve been steaming for a few days since I saw the first article pop up. You’ve laid it out and said it much better than I could have! Long live the steak and egg breakfast!

  25. I saw this in the news the other day. My first thought was, “Hmmm, epidemiological study. Forget it.” and my second, “I wonder what Dr. Mike will have to say about it.”

    I must admit, I am curious about that vegetarian admitting that his kind die from malnutrition and infectious diseases. So a diet which is nutritionally inadequate and does not support the immune system (despite all those phytonutrients/antioxidants) is what we are all supposed to embrace?

    Andrea

  26. I found this comment by a vegetarian a little odd:

    “I been a vegetarian for 47 years and I have never seen vegetarians die from heart disease or cancer. They died from basic infectious diseases and malnutrition.”

    Does this person really think it’s better to die slowly of starvation or Ebola infection rather than dropping dead from a heart attack? [This person bought into the red meat = heart disease thing.]

    • Another thing i find funny about that comment is that (well it’s not really funny…..quite horrible actually) my friends neighbours who were both hardcore vegans both died of cancer….so yeah….there goes the vegetarian and vegan delusion that they’re immune to all forms of cancer…..

  27. I want to chime in with Paleo RD, too. I really appreciate all the time you’ve taken over the years to explain how to read these reports to us the laymen. There’s a lot of mumbo jumbo and political BS that get snuck into these things, and I really appreciate you taking the time to teach us how to unwind the cord to find the kernels of truth inside.

    On a slightly related note, if I sent you over a study or two would you be willing to read it and post your thoughts? There were a couple of studies a few month back about the effects of a low carb diet on muscle growth and hypertrophy (basically saying it was severly limited and the conditions it created were unfavorable to hypertrophy) that I would love to hear your thoughts on. I know there’s a few of us on here that read your board that are also into weightlifting.

    Thanks as always, Dr. Mike.

    Send me the citations, and I’ll pull the papers and take a look.

  28. The moment I read the headline of the “NEW STUDY”….I all ready knew what the “evidence” was going to point to. You have taught me a lot over the years Dr. Eades. Thank you.

    You wrote , “There is something about people who go the extra mile that makes them live longer than those who don’t.”

    This made me smile, becasuse years ago I was at an Aikido seminar where Mr. George Leonard said “the extra mile is never crowded”
    Funny how life comes full circle.
    Have a great day!

    Marc

    “The extra mile is never crowded.” What a great quote. Thanks for posting it.

  29. Dr Mike, I just got my blood lipids numbers and had a surprise. I eat mostly zero carb. No grains, no veggies, no fruit. I have no idea why my triglycerides are so high.

    November 2007
    Total Cholesterol 209
    Tri 84
    VDL (Calculated) 17
    LDL (Calculated) 123
    HDL 69
    Cholesterol/HDL ratio 3.0
    LDL/HDL ratio 1.78

    March 2009
    Total Cholesterol 210
    Tri 123
    VDL (Calculated) 25
    LDL (Calculated) 118
    HDL 67
    Cholesterol/HDL ratio 3.1
    LDL/HDL ratio 1.76

    I put off getting the test until March because I had just started zeroish in November 2008 and thought the numbers might be really bad.

    On the other hand my blood glucose has dropped from 112 in November 2007 to 68 in March 2009.

    Should I be concerned?

    I wouldn’t be. The triglyceride isn’t all that high, and it could even be a lab error.

  30. Given what you’ve written previously about how a low-carb diet seems to prevents heart disease and cancer, I knew upon reading this article in my local paper that it was crap.

    Oh, and just so you know, Doc, you’ve ruined me for donations to “disease-fighting” charities. I can’t bring myself to donate money to an organization searching for a cure to [insert popular disease here] when I know that diet is a significant factor in causing or exacerbating that disease, and that information proving so is being ignored.

    I appreciate you going the extra mile to mention the articles that *weren’t* reported; media bias against meat eating and low-carb is indeed significant.

  31. Dr. Mike –

    First of all, that’s an awesome picture you used to illustrate this post. Serious yum.

    Secondly, I hope that you didn’t let the people who disliked your political musings stop you from getting your digs in at the obvious “greenwashing” being done with the findings of this study. This is what I really dislike about this particular study getting so much press. It’s pseudoscience to begin with and is being used as a justification for a specific type of food policy. No matter what a person’s political leanings are, they need to know when junk science is being used in an attempt to affect policy.

    Thanks for the post.

  32. this study is complete nonsense. I was watching a show on the history chanel yesterday on gladiators. The gladiators used to eat a special diet in order to put on fat to protect themselves from slashing wounds in there battles. What was the diet? A vegetarian diet of grains and beans! If you follow a vegetarian diet and don’t starve yourself you gain fat. period. The Romans knew it then but somehow we being so much smarter have figured how to refute reality. We must be magical!

  33. Hey doctor mike I thought this was pretty funny. My mom knows I eat alot of meat, My diet is red meat, eggs, yogurt and some chicken.Yesterday she tells my wife that i should look at this study which shows that red meat increses mortality. I blew it off and said to her that its a biased observational study without even looking at the damn study. I just knew thats what goes on and today i came across this and i sent it to her.
    Thanks for always being on top of things.

  34. Most (all?) people who die of colon cancer used toilet paper. Does that mean that toilet paper causes colon cancer?

    It doubtlessly does.

  35. Thanks, Monica, for the note about the methane and bison. I always phrase it another way: a hundred million “cow farts” were done away with by the white man in a very short period of time. Did we suddenly enter an Ice Age?

    The red meat studies also fail to note that there was no distinction made between red meat and cheap cured meats like hot dogs (and trimmings).

    Dr. Mike, my Pentabosol arrived yesterday, and I’m already down nearly a pound in water weight. I’ll let you know my ultimate progress. Thanks for all your work.

    Keep me posted. I’m keen to hear of your results.

  36. This a great article and very smart analysis on the way news is created and evidence can be manipulated.

    I was raised by a vegetarian mom who died at 57 from breast cancer. After that, I went completely vegan thinking I didn’t want to share my mother’s fate. I had a heart attack at 39 and have since had double bypass surgery. I’ve switched my diet back to the traditional European diet my grandparents fed me as a child – grass-fed meats, pastured chicken and eggs, and seasonal vegetables. They lived well into their 90s. I trust my own anecdotal evidence more than I trust the observations of a flawed study.

  37. from a simple minded reader, i just want to thank you for the picture of the meats. lol. they say meat is murder,,well, so is insulin resistance. thanks doctor! wonderful insights all.

  38. Why not get a group of other low-carber researchers and doctors together and offer a multi-million dollar challenge to anyone in the world for the results of a diet of 80/20 fat/protein – zero carbs diet vs a normal AHA low-fat diet. Obviously get a third party panel to judge the results and have the money escrowed into a secure account. This would surely get the media’s attention. There is more than enough support in the community for this and it could finally be a turning point for all this mess. You can even lay them 3:1 odds or more to further bait the media.

    These studies have been done. At least studies comparing low-carb diets to the AHA diet have been done numerous times, and in each case the low-carb diet triumphs. But we’re not talking science with the media; we’re talking ideology. And a lot of science typically doesn’t trump even a little ideology.

  39. Thanks for setting the record straight on this one so I can email it to all of my friends and family. And thanks for bringing up the other studies that no one will hear about because they contradict the status quo.
    But most especially I would like to thank you for letting me have a good laugh at the inane quote in the beginning of the blog by the vegetarian who has never seen a vegetarian die of cancer or heart disease–“just” malnutrition and infectious diseases. That is not a very good ad for vegetarianism, is it now? Of course, the fact that they didn’t drink or smoke had nothing to with it.

  40. “They died from basic infectious diseases and malnutrition.”

    I read this ten times over. I couldn’t stop laughing. Does this man not realize he is admitting to major problems with being vegetarian? And yes, dying from BASIC infectious diseases as opposed to EXOTIC infectious diseases! Nothing like dying from the flu because your immune system didn’t have the necessary nutrients found in meat.

    The Stoopid, It Burns!

  41. Just when you think you can’t be more cynical you find it’s not quite enough.

    Indeed you can’t. You doing okay?

  42. Here’s a quote from the actual study:

    “There was an increased risk associated with death from injuries and sudden death with higher consumption of red meat in men. . . . there was no association for processed meat intake and death from injuries and sudden death in either sex.”

    The obvious conclusion is that if you eat more bacon than ribeye, you’re less likely to be hit by a really fast truck.

  43. The comment by the vegetarian illustrates your observation in previous posts that vegetarians tend not to think too clearly. Admitting that vegetarians die of malnutrition…priceless.

    It’s really disturbing how unabashedly biased media reporting is these days. It was really obvious to me during the last presidential election that we no longer have a press trying to report objectively on all sides of an issue to aid the populace in making informed decisions, but rather one which has decided what is “right” and who should get elected. Clearly the media are also merely a mouthpiece for the powers that be that know best how we ought to eat. Common sense is being driven more and more deeply underground. People don’t want to see it, but there really is a secular fundamentalism afoot that is steering us into a belief system deathly in many ways.

    I hate to ask an off-topic question, but if you don’t mind: I’m recovering from a virus that caused gastroenteritis, accompanied by severe nausea and headaches. In desperation earlier this week I sent my husband to get an OTC nausea medication since my doctor’s appointment wasn’t for another day. He came back with Emetrol, a mixture of glucose, fructose, and phosphoric acid. When I saw the ingredients, I wondered if I should take it, but was so miserable I would have tried anything. And it worked. After three tablespoons, the nausea was gone. What was it about those evil twins glucose and fructose that made it so effective? I was surprised, given my conditioning about how bad sugars are for the body.

    I don’t think it is the glucose or the fructose – both are in Emetrol in small amounts. I think it is the phosphoric acid that does the trick.

  44. Mike, I love the summary, quite the education, but what an audience you’ve grown here – learning almost as much from their posts.

    FWIW, there’s an interesting synergy between your advocacy of low carbs, Taubes’ work, other carb restriction advocates, Robb Wolf (in your links), and CrossFit (www.crossfit.com) – you may know of this site as it has posted your blog as a rest day discussion topic (on Bray’s commentary about Good Calories Bad Calories). Bottom line – your readers may find this approach to fitness to be as potent as your approach to health through diet. For me, even as a life long athlete in ‘good shape’ before I found CF, CF has been life changing, not least because of the reinforcement it has provided in carb control for health and fitness. Best, Paul

  45. a great post with a great beginning and a great end. we start with a fantastic picture and end with a profoundly true “news is what the reporter says is news” i immediatly made the picture of the meats the new background on my laptop. congratulations. sadly, ideology trumps truth every time. a question somewhat off topic. how much protein[meat] we actually need. is it really about 200gms of protein? about 100 to prevent nitrogen loss and about another 100 to make glucose for the brain and essential functions.
    thanks again for your blog. i look for it every day.

    How much protein we need is a function of what size we are, how active we are, and how many carbs we’re eating. If you eat a lot of carbs, you don’t need as much protein because carbs spare protein. If you’re on a low-carb diet, then you need to crank the protein up more because you’re using the protein to replace protein structures plus using it to make sugar. Most people on low-carb diets need between 100-200 g per day.

  46. I wish someone somehow could bring about a “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?” moment for the perpetrators of this media fraud. I dont know what’s needed, maybe some sort of giant PR blitz, perhaps a mock trial, some bit of theater to put the focus on the sheer stupidity we’ve witnessed all over the internet and airwaves. There really ought to be a giant backlash against this ridiculousness.

    Let’s levitate the Pentagon! Or something…

    To we cognoscenti it is sheer stupidity; to them it’s reporting the news.

  47. Hey Dr. Mike, just an FYI – there is a second posted comment on this blog by an “Ellen” who is posting with my name and words. I just wanted to let you know that I didn’t post the same comment twice. I have no idea who this other poster is, but I would assume they are trying to get their website address a free ride, without actually taking the time to participate in the conversation. Just didn’t want you to think it was coming from me.

    I took care of it. When I looked more closely, it was someone shilling for colon cleansing.

  48. “Dr Barry Popkin, a nutrition epidemiologist and economist who directs the interdisciplinary obesity program at the University of North Carolina, would use a term other than Sinha’s “modest.” “You’re talking about a lot of deaths that would be prevented by cutting your processed meat or cutting your red meat,” he says. He suggests framing the issue in real terms. A McDonald’s Big Mac contains 7.5 oz. of red meat, Popkin points out. So if your diet consists of a Big Mac every other day — roughly equivalent to the highest quintile of meat consumption in the study; in other words, the typical American diet — you could cut back to one Big Mac a week and see dramatic health benefits.”

    http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1887266,00.html

    This guy wasn’t involved in the study itself, as far as I know. If he paid more attention to the stuff that comes out of his own mouth I suspect he might be wiser for it.

    He’s a lipophobe and an ideologue.

  49. Great Post.

    You mentioned, “….vegetarians…actually have a higher incidence of some particularly nasty cancers (but slightly lower rates of death from heart disease)….”

    What do you think explains the lower rate of heart disease? Do you think the vegers were more adherent in other respects outside of diet that would lead to better heart health?

    There have been a number of studies showing no real difference in death rates between vegetarians and nonvegetarians. Both die at the same rate, but from different causes. Vegetarians typically have higher rates of cancer while nonvegetarians have more heart disease. But in the end, they’re both dead. I suspect that if the nonvegetarians were non-carb eaters, they would have reduced rates of heart disease and live longer than vegetarians. But that’s just an educated guess on my part.

  50. Nothing gets me more worked up than a know-it-all vegetarian client who actually knows very little about anything ‘real’ in the nutrition world, hasn’t taken the trouble to do their own research, and doesn’t seem to make any connection between their diet and their constant fatigue, illness, trouble with losing weight etc. Thanks for providing me some further knowledge with which to re-educate these poor misguided folks!

  51. I know it’s off the subject of red meat but keeping in line with “News is whatever the reporter decideds it is”…. Sigmond Freud came to a few horrible conclusions about cocaine and PRINTED THEM!

    “…exhilaration and lasting euphoria, which in no way differs from the normal euphoria of the healthy person… and it is soon hard to believe you are under the influence of any drug…….This result is enjoyed without any of the unpleasant after-effects that follow exhilaration brought about by alcohol….Absolutely no craving for the further use of cocaine appears after the first, or even after repeated taking of the drug…”

    He also stated that cocaine would be useful in the treatment of morphine and alcohol addiction. Sheesh.

    So, you make a good point. I will now question everything. thank you.

    :)

  52. I wonder where this strange bias comes from. The press has no reason to favour one study over another. It’s like they are heavily invested one way or the other. The only reason I can think of is that they prefer studies that favor the status quo, as they sell better. People are less likely to be interested in subjects they disagree with. I see that with myself all the time. When I see an article/post about the dangers of meat/salt/fat, I rolls my eyes, think blah blah blah to myself and skip it. But if I see an article about low carb that sounds positive, I will pay attention. People like to have their bias confirmed, and I assume the press knows this. Also, from their perspective , I would assume it’s more exciting to “prove” something than nothing. So while those other studies were valuable, they were probably not considered as newsworthy

    I haven’t a clue as to where the bias comes from. The great unwashed masses out there probably think eating red meat is bad for them. So why make a big deal of reporting it? That’s a dog-bites-man story. Nothing unusual. But for whatever reason, studies showing any kind of negative effect from meat -even poorly done observational studies – are like catnip to the press.

  53. There’s a discussion over at Mark’s Daily Apple about nitrites. I seem to remember that you said in a comment that the body produces far more nitrites than prevously thought and this made the likelyhood of nitrites contributing to cancer remote, but the search engine doesn’t look thru comments so all I found was your Follow up on the Israeli low-carb study post. Could you please comment briefly on nitrites or make a brief post so so I can find it in the future?

    The best post I’ve come across on nitrites is this one. I take most of what this woman writes with a grain of salt, but this post is pretty good.

  54. Dr. Meades thank you for the great post. I commented earlier about the six-week meat diet I completed recently. One side-effect of this diet was increased calculus deposits on my teeth.
    I went to the Dentist to check out the calculus deposits that have sprung out of nowhere while on the meat diet.
    “I have never seen this much tartar deposits in the crevices of the teeth!” Is what the dentist told me. He has been practicing for over ten years.
    What is going on? One other person mentioned how she noticed more calculus while on a carb-restricted diet. Has this happened to anyone else?
    What do you make of it, Dr. Meades?

    You and the one other person who mentioned this are the only two I’ve come across in many years of practice. I don’t know what’s going on.

  55. Hey, Dr. Mike.

    Thanks first off for agreeing to take a look at these.

    I should first point out that I got this from a bodybuilding magazine called Muscular Development. While it’s a usual ad filled rag, it does have one nice point: All articles cite their references. So no matter what they’re discussing they at least are nice enough to throw you a bone to look them up. If you don’t mind, you can e-mail me your e-mail address at the e-mail attached to this post and I’d be happy to scan and send you a copy of the article in question as it cites many references. It’s not necessarily an anti-lo carb article as much as a review of the science, and the thought that while lo carb is good at fat loss there could be potential muscle loss. There are other things I think are pretty speculative at best “Training in a glycogen-depleted state resulted in reduced genes for muscle hypertrophy”

    Here are the main studies it cites:
    Creer A, Gallagher p, Slivka D, jemiolo B, Fink W, Trappe S. Influence of muscle availability of ERK1/2 and Akt signaling after resistance exercise in human skeletal muscle. J Appl Physiol, 2005 Sep;99(3):950-6

    Churchley EG, Coffey VG, Pedersen DJ, Shield A, Carey Ka, Cameron-Smith D, Hawley Ja. Influence of preexercise muscle gylcogen content on transcriptional activity of metabolic and myogenic genes in well trained humans. J Appl Physiol 2007 Apr;102(4):1004-11

    This is a part of the lo carb diet I’ve always been interested in. As a person who lifted full time for 10 years and followed the standard high protein, mod/high carb, low/mod fat diet the whole time, I was shocked when I tried the lo carb diet. I lost fat, gained muscle, and at the same time my lifting weights went higher than they ever had before. While I can see in the back of my head where the lack of muscle glycogen could be necessary for hypertrophy, but the fact that I was lifting heavier consistently month in and out tells me otherwise.

    Curious to hear your thoughts on it.

    Thanks, Dr. Mike
    (and enjoy the reading material 😉 )

  56. One thing you forgot to mention is that the researchers didn’t establish what the people they were “studying” ate by monitoring their intake. This is another “study” where they were lazy and handed out questionnaires.

    Let me tell you something about questionnaires. They’re murder. I have done the good old signing up for research surveys to make extra cash thing, and I dreaded the long surveys. What would happen is that about halfway through I got lazy and sloppy and rushed just as fast as I could to get through the darned thing so they’d pay me. I did make some effort to be honest but the farther I got the less I cared how it turned out.

    Now, these people who were studied were elderly. So not only do you have the god-let-me-get-this-dang-thing-over-with effect going on, but on top of that you had folks who might get tired just going for a walk, never mind poring over a long document asking what must have seemed like pointless questions for the fiftieth danged time. (Another thing these surveys do is ask similar questions one after another after another, with only slight differences.)

    And THEN, I have tracked my food intake in SparkPeople before, and that’s a nightmare too. You have to weigh and measure everything if you want accuracy. Ten to one these questionnaires asked the respondents to guesstimate their intake, not whether they used measuring cups and kitchen scales every time they ate.

    So, I call B.S. Big time. Until someone’s willing to get the human lab rats together in one place under supervision, all eating the same foods for an extended period of time, and THEN run labs and check their health that way, I don’t want to hear it. At the very least I want to see them do what was done with Vilhjalmur Stefansson the year he did his all-meat study in New York. But they won’t, because ticking off the vegan lobby and the grain growers is not where the big money is.

    You are on the money. This is why these kinds of studies are often less than worthless: they don’t provide any good data. In fact, they often provide bad data. And even if the data were good, they’re still observational studies, which don’t prove anything about causality. Yet, at least in the case of this one, they are plastered all over every newspaper and broadcast over every news channel as being gospel.

  57. Oh, and, as for dental problems while low-carbing, let me offer my own data point: I guess I side with the majority, but I have less plaque when I’m LCing. I can only imagine how clean my teeth would be if I ate all-meat. (Don’t think I’m not tempted.) I do have tartar on my teeth but it’s old stuff, nothing induced by recent dietary changes. I wonder if the two commenters you had who’ve experienced more of it are merely noticing something that had been present for a while, and when they started LCing the regular plaque went away and the calculus became more obvious?

    Oh, and this comment was priceless:

    The irony is that I have had people question me on Dr. Atkins’ death all of the time. “Didn’t he die?” *sigh* It would be sad if it weren’t true, but a low-carb doctor can die from trauma at an old age and it was “his diet that killed him”, but a vegitarian can die of cancer and the response is to ask for our support by becoming vegans ourselves. (Paraphrased from her husbands quote in Wikipedia.)

    Vilhjalmur Stefansson said something similar when he wrote about his meat-only experiment!

    The test was originally planned on me alone, but I might be struck by lightening before conclusions were reached, or I might get run over by a truck, and that would be construed, by mixed-dieters and vegetarians, as showing impairment of mental alertness and bodily vigor through the monotony and poison of meat.

    Some things never change!

  58. Another great post!
    I personally cannot see how people think that going veg is healthy. Some 24 years ago, I had a very passionate affair with a vegetarian lady, one who fell madly in love with me and came over from England to live with me. Trouble was, I had to go veg as well, and started to pack on the kilos alarmingly from the very first week. And she was so pale. (At the time I thought it was sexy. Ha!) And irrational: she ditched me in a trice, took up with another guy for a week and then ditched him. And she refused to eat tomatos. They made her break out in hives. I guess that’s health for you.
    I was devastated when she dumped me, but I had really dodged a metaphorical bullet. Heaven knows how sick I would have been if we’d stayed together. Only now am I finally managing to get rid of that extra weight.
    And now for something completely different, although I have a segue. While we were together we attended a very memorable concert at the Sydney Opera House: Berlioz’s Requiem conducted by Edo de Waart. I still remember the thrill we had entering the hall and right beside us was the 17 tympani (all tuned to D) and, besides the rather large orchestra, four brass bands placed around the hall in the 4 cardinal directions. Wow! In the Tuba Mirum when all the tympani pounded away and each of the bands entered at the diminshed seventh (very bluesy), what a noise!
    Yesterday was the memorial service for Jorn Utzon, the architect of the building. My wife and I attended a concert last night and the place was bedecked with flowers. (Beethoven’s 1st Piano Concerto, Haydn Symphony 67 and Bartok’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta.) A lot of radio commentary yesterday dwelt on the occaision when Paul Robeson sang to the worker on the building site. Well, that event had been arranged by my uncle Jack Wars. From Uncle Jack I inherited the dining suite used by Sir Eugene Goossens (the man whose idea it was to build the OP in the first place) when he rented Jack’s appartment. Tonight we ate dinner off the table used by the man who conducted that very Bartok piece in Australia for the first time (according to the programme notes of last night’s concert). OK, I know it’s a pathetic piece of trivia, but any excuse for a rave.
    I appologise for the incoherence of this post, but my kids keep on interrupting me with homework questions, with an average frequency of 5 words typed per question.
    Michael Richards

    Don’t worry about it. I enjoy reading music trivia. Post on.

  59. The recent flurry of news articles about mango extract, which somebody mentioned above, was based on the following study:

    http://www.lipidworld.com/content/8/1/7

    Incidentally this “mango” is not the same fruit as the one we eat in the US. The two plants are in different orders. This plant is known as the African mango or dikka or bread tree.

    Thanks for the heads up.

  60. Dental calculus: A friend and I both started low carbing last year and we both have enjoyed the usual health benefits. My teeth are fine, but he has suffered from the calculus thing mentioned by two other posters now. His diet change wasn’t nearly as extreme as mine either. He already ate pretty well, including lots of meat and veg and hardly any of the muffin/doughnut/cookie/bagel stuff I used to live on, so it was mostly him giving up (well, drastically reducing) bread for sandwiches, pasta, rice and potatoes. I’d love to know what’s causing it. His solution, only partially successful, has been flossing with textured floss and switching to an electric brush.

  61. @curiousfarmer…

    for what its worth, my dentist tells me I produce an unusually large amount of tartar. I don’t know if its due to low carb, I had already been low carbing for a while when I started with this guy, and prior to that my visits to the dentists of the world after leaving my parent’s care could best be described as sporadic, as in rarely, as in once or twice a decade…

  62. Just wanted to add that I had a great deal of tartar on my teeth also on my last cleaning. I noticed it and was alarmed long before my cleaning was due and began the task of trying to clean it up before my appointment. I even asked if it might be because of the the low carb diet and the dental assistant shrugged.

    It might be the heavy mineral deposits in the water though.

  63. Strange bias?? I don’t find it all that strange. It’s all about their salaries and bank accounts. Processed food and pharmaceutical ad money contributes far more to their income than truthfulness about meat or veggies ever could.

  64. Dr. Eades
    An off topic question if I may. When trying to consume the required amount of daily protein, is there an amount that can be assimilated at one time? If I theoretically need 200 grams per day, could I eat two 100 gram meals? I read in popular fitness sites that 40 grams at one meal is all a body can handle, but I always assumed it is their way of pushing protein supplements. If it is true, then I would have to eat at least five times a day which is not practical or desirable for me. Thank you Dr.

    You can eat more than 40 gm per meal. Here is a good article by one of the top protein researchers in the country that should answer all your questions.

  65. I agree with Angel earlier. I no longer support any charities looking for drug cures and I have also put your meat picture as my desktop. I’m alternatiing it with my “They’re Happy Because they Eat Lard” picture. There are a lot of vegetarians here and they need a shake-up every now and then. It’s my self-appointed job to ensure they are shaken up on a regular basis. Just found out there is another low-carber here in our building (2 of us) and I’m so glad to have a partner-in-crime.

    Thanks Dr. Mike once again.

  66. One thing that struck me about this study (I actually went and read it) is that they controlled for a ton of variables (smoking, vegetable consumption, age, etc.) BUT THEY DID NOT CONTROL FOR carbohydrate intake. They also didn’t control for polyunsaturate intake.

    Guess what? Many Americans get their red meat served to them on a big white bun with another ship of carbohydrates (soda, chips, fries) carrying a load of inflammation-producing n-6 vegetable oils that have also been linked to cancer.

    As you said, a lot of the people eating red meat are not necessarily dyed in the wool low carbers but people who don’t give a crap. I would bet anything if the researchers had controlled for these variables they would have found that the “meat” group also ate lots of junk because the study also documents that this group had higher smoking rates as you noted. Gee, I wonder if off this could that have anything to do with the fact that these folks have slightly higher cancer rates…

    These silly researchers, though, also note that processed meat consumption was associated with LOWER risk of death in the group that never smoked. Say what?? :)

  67. I have a theory on why the “news” people harp on this stuff. It is the same reason many other subjects are reported on as they are (biased in favor of on side of the issue). The vast majority of people in the media tend to lean to one side of the political spectrum. Eating animals being bad (for the animals, for the planet, because they associate red meat with greedy Captialists and/or middle American knuckledraggers, etc.) fits into their worldview, so it’s only logical that they would report any story about the harms of saturated fat/meat they could get their hands on.

    I took a class a few years ago that was about half Journalism students (some graduate students) and half PoliSci students. I was flabbergasted not only at how monolithic the Journalism half was in their beliefs, how inflexible they were in those beliefs, and how badly they wanted to go impart the “truth” (their beliefs) onto the public. There wasn’t a whole lot of critical thinking going on there.

    Apparently there still isn’t a whole lot of critical thinking going on among the journalistic tribe.

  68. Is it me, or was the propaganda blitz about this particular ‘study’ far more forceful than usual? I find this depressing. This, combined with the obvious efforts to paint meat consumption as environmentally irresponsible, makes me fearful for the future.

    I agree with you. I think it was a more forceful than usual.

  69. I have always had some tarter build up on my teeth(mostly lower front) but it has worsened in the years that I have been low-carbing. When I started low-carbing I also had the onset of gum disease with many deep pockets but over the years with basically doing the same dental hygiene and regular cleanings my gum disease has vanished and I get complements from my dentist on how healthy my gums have become. The only changes I have made has been going low-carb plus supplementing with vitamin D and krill oil. As for the tarter build up other then being unsightly it seems to not cause any problems.

    Also I once read in a weight lifting magazine that drinking milk based protein powder may contribute to tarter build up. The writer even had a term for it IIRC it was something like protein mouth or protein powder mouth. I have only seen this mentioned once and it was in relation to drinking a protein powder shake in the middle of the night as some serious lifters do to ensure they do not cannibalize any muscle during sleep.

  70. > This paper goes on to discuss how the hypothesis that fat and meat intake got kicked off way back in the 1960s from a presentation at a symposium.

    Dr Mike,
    This sentence confused me. Could you clarify? Thanks!

    I fixed it in the post. Thanks for the heads up.

  71. I’m waiting for the study that reads: “after many years of careful research we have found that people who are born ………die.”

    can’t wait for the subsequent “well lets just make a law banning birth!!”

  72. Dr Mike I am overwhelmed with emotions right now after finishing watching Oprah show about American’s biggest people. What absolutely amazed and shocked me that despite being enormously obese these folks are invisible to this society. I still cant fully comprehend how is it possible in a country of so many obese people to only have One fascility in New Heaven that treats mortally obese people. The stories I heard striken the very sensitive cord in me. Medical community totally turned a blind eye on this problem. There were Doctors on a show that claimed they wouldnt want how to approach these people without offending them. What?????????? So instead they would take a higher road and simply ignore them alltogether. And most of these obese guys and girls are truly wonderful, sweet and kind souls who are in dire need for intervention. I still cant fathom the idea of not having special reahibilitation center for these folks to reverse the course before its too late! Its truly a shame! I understand that at times you cant save people from themselves but the obesity epidemic is getting rampant.

    Dr Mike would you qualify obesity as a disease and let insurance company pay for treatments? You have so much experience in this field, how would you solve this problem? I am not even talking about adult population here, I am talking about teenagers who are 18 years old trapped in a body that is 600 pounds. And there are many of them simply eating their lives away!

    A sad situation indeed. Yes, I would indeed qualify obesity, especially morbid obesity, as a disease. You can read about my own experience with morbid obesity on television here. It was dreadful.

  73. the meat and mortality trial was not controlled either for sugar or fructose consumption or for glycemic index. both positively related with red meat consumption, and both with cardiovascular disease.

  74. Ever since going on a mostly meat diet I’ve been eating more red meat than I ever have. Not only do I feel better but also my blood test show a big improvement. Higher HDL, Slightly higher LDL, Super low Triglycerides.

    Dr Eades,

    I was reading an article a friend showed me. Not a very good article about lowering triglycerides; one of the recommendations being cut out the fats. But the article mentioned that because triglycerides levels are very sensitive to what you eat you should test them without fasting. Would you recommend measuring triglyc without fasting and why?

    Thank You

    I always check them fasting. The recommendation to cut out fats to reduce triglycerides is indeed idiotic. You reduce triglycerides by cutting out the carbs.

  75. Just wondering, did you remove the post that was “shilling for colon cleansing” because they were shilling or because colon cleansing is bogus or both?

    Thanks again or all you do.

    Both. You can read my views on colon cleansing here.

  76. What’s up with the notion of “essential sugars”? I’ve had two people mention this to me recently. My point of view is that there are NO essential sugars.

    Have you heard of this before?

    That’s my point of view as well.

  77. Possible reason for some dental problems.

    I know when I’m in or about in Ketosis, my mouth tends to be very dry.
    I think a drier than normal mouth will probably allow plaque to harden faster without the saliva to keep it from calcifying and building up as fast in some folks.
    I would think over night would increase the dryness and these formations.

    Just my take on it.

  78. Your quote: “I haven’t a clue as to where the bias comes from. That’s a dog-bites-man story. Nothing unusual.”

    I think the question, to eat or not to eat meat will be controversial for a long time to come as will meat-eaters locking horns with vegetarians. This may possibly have something to do with vegetarianism somehow being synonymous with more progressive thinking by some elitists. Lets explore how this may have come to be with a word association exercise: meat-eater… paleolithic… neanderthal… hunter… not very highly evolved… cartoon of cave man with club dragging woman by hair… low-life… get the picture? This is silly but I wouldn’t doubt it having some merit. If so its no wonder any science weighing in against eating meat would be considered huge – don’t you think? – and therefore economically driven or ego-based.

  79. Just saw “Housecall” with Dr. Rosenfeld on Foxnews. I’m sure he’s a fine doctor but he sure bought into this anti red meat agenda hook, line, and sinker. Not to be critical but I don’t think I want diet advice from someone with a clearly high (based on multiple chins/jowls) body fat percentage.

  80. Regarding tartar build-up, I have much less tartar on LC and my gum health is greatly improved – no more deep pockets!

    However, if I eat nearly 0 carbs for a few days, I can feel the tartar building up quickly. On zero carbs my mouth always feels dry no matter how much water I drink, so I wonder if that could be the cause – the dryness and/or more minerals in (hard) water consumed. My hygenist once mentioned that mouth-breathers tend to have more tartar (presumably because they have drier mouths). Luckily I only need to floss and go back to eating 20-30g ECC (mostly veggies) to stop tartar buildup. Chewing veggies probably scrapes off tartar and more saliva probably slows down precipitation from hard water too.

  81. hahahahahaha – you and MD on Ricki Lake…..

    For those with tartar build-up, try oil-pulling. When researching the health benefits of coconut oil I stumbled on lots of mention of this and thought it was rubbish. However I suspended this disbelief long enough to purchase some cheap sesame oil and try it until the bottle was finished (twice a day for 10-15mins whilst showering). I can’t see any tartar on my lower teeth anymore (the only place I could see it before I started – not much anyway). Worth a shot for those with issues.

    OK, you’ve got me on this one. I don’t have a clue as to what oil-pulling is, and I suspect many readers don’t as well. Care to enlighten us?

  82. Hey, Doc-

    Sorry to wax commercial here, but I need advice- I’d like to try your Pentabosol (sp?) and tried to order it on line- BUT, I was only able to find ONE source where I could buy just that one product, without other backup herbs/ vitamins, or whatever. It was called Blue Dog Direct. I placed an order for the stuff, paid thru Pay Pal, and have just been notified that my money has been refunded by Pay Pal- so, No complaints, no scams, but also NO PENTABOSOL!

    Have you any suggestions as to where this product is available (BY ITSELF! with no EXTRAS!) ???

    I am in dire need of a little weight loss help right now- I stopped smoking in January, and have gained about 20 lbs., and feel I have to put the brakes on somehow!

    We have it available in the products section of our website http://www.proteinpower.com but not right now. We are reformulating to make it taste a little better, mix better and not contain an artificial sweetener. It should be available again in about a month. If you don’t want to wait until then, try http://www.pentabosol.com.

  83. All these poorly done studies showing that eating lots of meat is bad for you remind me of the poorly done studies 40 years ago that showed that cigarettes were bad for you.

  84. Not a comment on this post, but a followup to an earlier comment re: a study on african mango extract. Here is the abstract and link to full article:
    IGOB131, a novel seed extract of the West African plant Irvingia gabonensis, significantly reduces body weight and improves metabolic parameters in overweight humans in a randomized double-blind placebo controlled investigation
    Judith L Ngondi1 , Blanche C Etoundi1 , Christine B Nyangono1 , Carl MF Mbofung2 and Julius E Oben1
    1Laboratory of Nutrition and Nutritional Biochemistry, Faculty of Science, University of Yaounde I, Yaounde, Cameroon
    2Department of Food Science and Nutrition, ENSAI, University of Ngaoundere, BP 686 Ngaoundere, Cameroon
    author email corresponding author email

    Lipids in Health and Disease 2009, 8:7doi:10.1186/1476-511X-8-7

    The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at: http://www.lipidworld.com/content/8/1/7

    Received: 7 January 2009
    Accepted: 2 March 2009
    Published: 2 March 2009
    © 2009 Ngondi et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
    This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

    Abstract

    Background
    A recent in vitro study indicates that IGOB131, a novel seed extract of the traditional West African food plant Irvingia gabonensis, favorably impacts adipogenesis through a variety of critical metabolic pathways including PPAR gamma, leptin, adiponectin, and glycerol-3 phosphate dehydrogenase. This study was therefore aimed at evaluating the effects of IGOB131, an extract of Irvingia gabonensis, on body weight and associated metabolic parameters in overweight human volunteers.

    Methods
    The study participants comprised of 102 healthy, overweight and/or obese volunteers (defined as BMI > 25 kg/m2) randomly divided into two groups. The groups received on a daily basis, either 150 mg of IGOB131 or matching placebo in a double blinded fashion, 30–60 minutes before lunch and dinner. At baseline, 4, 8 and 10 weeks of the study, subjects were evaluated for changes in anthropometrics and metabolic parameters to include fasting lipids, blood glucose, C-reactive protein, adiponectin, and leptin.

    Results
    Significant improvements in body weight, body fat, and waist circumference as well as plasma total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, blood glucose, C-reactive protein, adiponectin and leptin levels were observed in the IGOB131 group compared with the placebo group.

    Conclusion
    Irvingia gabonensis administered 150 mg twice daily before meals to overweight and/or obese human volunteers favorably impacts body weight and a variety of parameters characteristic of the metabolic syndrome. This is the first double blind randomized placebo controlled clinical trial regarding the anti-obesity and lipid profile modulating effects of an Irvingia gabonensis extract. The positive clinical results, together with our previously published mechanisms of gene expression modulation related to key metabolic pathways in lipid metabolism, provide impetus for much larger clinical studies. Irvingia gabonensis extract may prove to be a useful tool in dealing with the emerging global epidemics of obesity, hyperlipidemia, insulin resistance, and their co-morbid conditions.

    Thanks for the info.

  85. You missed a trick when I posted this recently

    http://diabetes.diabetesjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/53/9/2375

    the ADA are still saying that there have been no long term studies of low carb diets which is why they don’t recommend them – but look at the date, they could have done a five year study by now I am marginally hopeful John Buse may steer them slowly into a more realistic direction but I’m not holding my breath for another five years.

    Now the anti-red-meat propaganda has been done and dusted, here in the UK we’re being hit by further anti-sat-fat campaigns

    http://www.satfatnav.com/Default.aspx

    http://www.fsascience.net/2009/02/10/the_appliance_of_science

    which just leaves the carbs to eat

    Looks like this

    http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20081110_america_the_illiterate/

    doesn’t just apply to America

    Long term perhaps this is a clever ploy to lead the terminally stupid and easily manipulated to an early grave

    Maybe they’re worried about all the baby boomers hitting the retirement system and figure this is a good way to thin the herd.

  86. @Dr. Eades.

    Sorry to go off topic here but what are your thoughts on caffeine induced adrenal fatigue? I am suspicious that I may be experienced it. I drink a lot of coffee during the day, yet my energy levels are not steady/optimal.

    I am thinking of quitting coffee cold-turkey and seeing how I feel after coming out of the inevitable withdrawal. Any thoughts?

    Try quitting to see what happens. I’m not a believer in adrenal fatigue from drinking coffee. I’m willing to be proven wrong, but until then, I don’t buy into it.

  87. Great post! I have read almost all of the blog archives, but could not find any comments about red meat and prostate cancer risk.
    I’m Type 2, and my problem right now is that after several weeks of “wimpy” intermittent fasting with a (mostly) low carb diet, my wieght is essentially unchanged. I’ve not managed to break the cycle of insulin resistance. I’m not morbidly obese, but need to lose 10 to 15 pounds. The next step will be to fast from dinner until breakfast 32 hours later, plus vitamin E supplements. We’ll see…

    There are no studies showing that red meat causes prostate cancer. There are a few observational studies here and there appearing to implicate meat, but as we have discussed often in the pages of this blog, those kinds of studies are worthless for determining causality.

  88. Dr Eades,

    Very admirable behavior, you liked an article, checked out the author out of curiosity, found out his political views were 180 degree different, and still liked the article. You are an excellent example of commitment to logic.

  89. Just chanced on your blog following a link from an article comparing cardiovascular benefits of fish oil with flax seed.

    It is very refreshing to find someone willing to consider things in a rational context, and careful to distinguish between demonstrated causation versus mere correlation.

    This is going against the general trend of modern culture though. I see others among your readers have already pointed out the reflexive sloganizing* herd behavior of today’s alleged journalists, who wield such power over us.

    Dang. Stinking politics wriggles into everything.

    * “sloganeering” seems overly civilized.

    By the way, what’s happening on 27 March 2010?

    March 27, 2010? I don’t have a clue. Why?

  90. I just stumbled across your blog…so I haven’t gone through your other posts, yet. I’m a scientist, mostly dealing with molecular biology and biochemistry, although I am regularly exposed to epidemiology.

    What I love about most epidemiologists is that they typically know and/or understand very little about mechanisms or the biology behind what they are studying. They assume whatever “association” they find is the answer to their questions, when this is almost never the case. It is important to be able to back up epidemiology with mechanistic studies, and this is never, never understood by the media. Another issue to note about epidemiologists–they can make almost any association have a significant p-value. It’s just a matter of finding the right statistical test…

  91. Hi Dr. Eades

    I think these researchers need to account for the fact that many, not all, but many who eat meat also either smoke, or don’t do activity much, eat processed meats ( full of nitrosamines) often, eat the meat with a large soda and fires, or just don’t include many nutrient rich vegetables. These researchers have this idea that meat is bad, the Ancel Keys mentality and are biased from the start. Meat is loaded with cardio protective nutrients.

    I agree that if a very health concious omnivore who did not smoke, did adequate activity, ate mostly non-processed natural meats, (without the large soda and fries most of the time) and included very anti- oxidant rich veggies would outlive a vegetarian. The omnivore is simply getting more quality nutrients.

    Take Care

    Razwell

  92. Hey doctor eades I had a small qauestion. Me and my husband are following a zero carb diet. (all animal products). We cook our meat in the grill. Do you think grilling is a safe option, you know because of all the free radicals and carcinogens like HA’s and AGE’s+
    Thanks doctor Eades

    No, I don’t think grilling is a problem. I do it myself all the time.

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  94. This ‘study’ also turned up on Medscape CME!

    Buried within the dumbed down data that were included was a tiny little mention that the folks eating more red meat had overall worser health habits (whatever that means) and higher BMIs – most certainly not addressed in this exercise, and neither was the utter lack of established causation between red meat & mortality (BTW according to their logic, increased ice cream consumption causes higher numbers of warm summer days and shark attacks)

    The most infuriating things were the “take home points”, captured in two multy choice questions (answer them right and then self-report the time it took to complete the exercise to get continuing ed credit? this really gives me confidence in CME!) This one was my favorite: “Consumption of which of the following types of meat increased the risk for all-cause mortality in the current study by Sinha and colleagues?” (hint: it’s in the title!)

    What does it say when continuing medical ed features this type of sensationalist crapp – oversimplified stuff based on an oversimplified study making unjustified leaps of logic and faith!?

  95. What? No more bearcat stew? Ever? The dickens, they say!!! Seriously, my wife had heard a report about this study and made me aware of it, being concerned for my health and wondering if it were true. After a brief discussion, I assured her that there was almost certainly something in error, either with the study itself or the reporting of it. Thank you for presenting this in detail and deconstructing it so nicely. I’d rather be a dietary caveman than an intellectual one.

    We are all aware by now that the press in this country has not only a bias but an agenda. It’s extreme and bizarre and the reason for it is obscure (to me anyway), but it exists. They almost never report truth or both sides of an issue, unless it promotes their agenda. No shocker there.

    Hello to Marc Feel Good Eating. I too am a former Aikido practitioner.

    Keep up the good work Dr. Mike.

    Jim

  96. Re the post on Irvingia gabonensis extract: check the following link; seems like LEF is saying ya gotta eat carbs for this extract to work. Is this just more low-carb bashing or are the claims in the paragraph at the top of column 2 accurate? Or, is it that the extract worked to correct the probs caused by the high carb diet in the first place? Does it have the same benefits when a low-carb diet is consumed. Nothing much when googled but I did find some say it’s not the miracle that it’s claimed to be.

    http://lowcarbconfidential.files.wordpress.com/2009/01/irvingia-letter-from-lef-010909.pdf

  97. Lyn,
    The first paragraph of that article you linked to stopped me cold. It was completely false, so I didn’t bother reading the rest.

    The American diet actually isn’t too high in saturated fat (in fact, saturated fat intake has gone down over the past 40+ years or so. Furthermore it says that American’s don’t get enough complex carbohydrates. What?! If anything, we get too many complex carbohydrates, hence the world of hurt we’re in, health-wise.

    Not enough fiber in the American diet? That premise is a flawed one, based on misguided observations, by people like Denis Burkett, a British physician, who missed the boat in his observations that people eating native diets in other parts of the world didn’t have GI disease rates that westernized countries had (they also squat to eliminate instead of sitting unnaturally on toilets, ferment many of their high fiber foods to increase digestibility, and in many cases, remove fiber if they can, to make the nutrients more absorbable and less likely to bind up minerals). It’s comparing apple to oranges to look at fiber rates in Africa and the US and come up with a meaningful comparison. There are too many other variables to consider.

    Some big epidemiological studies might support the fiber theory, but intervention studies (when study subjects increased fiber and outcomes were compared to control subjects who did not) have not provided ANY support for the fiber theory. It’s also possible to tease out from some data that fiber from grains actually do more harm than good (the body works hard to get rid of toxic harsh grain fiber, hence the “movement”), but TBTB haven’t seriously considered that option enough to actually study it in depth, because everyone *knows* wheat bran is good for us, right?

    Personally, my GI function improved tremendously when I dropped all sources of grain fiber and fiber supplements. Now I just get whatever fiber is in my non-starchy veggies and some fruit and would never go back to seeking fiber in my diet. I’m learning that the science actually supports what I’ve noticed myself, too.

    In addition to the posts and comments on this blog, that I interpret as strongly stating that saturated fat consumption in the US is not “too high”, nor fiber intake “too low”, there are some good scientifically oriented posts on fat and fiber over at Whole Health Source and Hyperlipid blogs. Fiber, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

  98. On the subject of meat—have you seen Jennifer McLagan’s beautiful new book titled simply “Fat”? Most recipes aren’t low-carb, but lots of interesting information.

    Yes, we own the book. It is beautifully done.

  99. @ Anna, I’ve been a fan of sat fat for yrs (enig et al, re coconut oil esp), I ignored all that whole grain nonsense and tried to find specifics for the Irvingia gabonensis extract. If it produces these effects in those consuming a low carb diet, then it’s something to seriously consider. But, I can’t tell from what I’ve read on the net; the LEF article seems the most comprehensive BUT it states ya gotta be eating lots of carbs…just plain insane. But, maybe if ya eat high carb, then this extract ameliorates the biochemical derangement that ‘diet’ causes. My question remains: does it have these effects when combined with a low-carb diet.

  100. Dr. Eades,

    I downloaded the article by Layman you linked to and read it. I’m wondering how this will mesh with IF? Especially regarding IF and strength training (and diet w/ regard to recovery). Eagerly awaiting you’re post on IF when you get around to it. I thought you said were going to do a post on it and you were leaning towards it again.

    Thanks for all you do again.
    Joe

  101. There is a tv show out there called “The Doctors”. They recently featured a segment on red meat, claiming it caused everything from cancer to heart disease. They recommended eating no more than 3oz of only very lean beef daily. One of the docs claimed his father attributed his acquired colon cancer to eating red meat and has not touched it since. I believe he is an also an MD. Most the MDs on the show are rather young. Now we have to wait for these guys to die off? I haven’t got that much time. :)

    • Well they sell a lot of products designed to compensate for a low fat diet and in particular diets low in meat.

  102. Media journalists have to sell the hype and alot of times they fudge the facts. Spot on for calling them out and revealing the true results of the study.

  103. i have gone low carb before, felt great, lost weight. as a matter of fact, i have gone on and off for years. my problem is i lose alot of hair everytime i am on lc’s and it really has never grown back. what is going on, how can i prevent this?

  104. Great article. The knowledge about the effects on mortality of meat was also available in the ancient days – which made many people in India turn towards vegetarianism for ages. All these people live healthy lifestyles, and we should learn from them. There would be however other people who have vested interest in promoting meat .. like the meat industry, and this problem should be tackled at the Government level.

  105. Really? We should learn from the Indian diet and lifestyle? I’m not so sure about that, since India has the second highest rate of malnourished children (next to Bangladesh) and the highest rate of stunted children in the world (61 million – over half of India’s children are stunted, particularly in the rural south). These are areas where cereal grains make up the bulk of their diet.

  106. um… my heritage being from India and specifically from West Bengal (East Bengal is now Bangladesh) – I can firmly attest to the fact that the higher on the hog one is (like in many countries) – the more fish and meat eats

    my mother, who was from a wealthy family – said their typical meal each day was fish, 3x a day, vegetables, and maybe a spoon or two of rice – an uncle of hers would make a ghee soup – a cup of ghee to eat one spoon of rice

    those with less money – tons and tons of more rice, and next to no fish

  107. vegtables ruined this photo, the specular highlights on the vegtables throw off the composition.

    waste of a good meat image