The Ugly Truth About Arthritis and Diabetes

[Ed. note: This is Day 3 of Stephen’s special five-part series for Tomorrow in Review readers called “The Truth About MD Warnings,” in which he exposes the truth about 2014’s whacky new health recommendations and what do about them. On Jan. 26, he exposed the truth about new sodium recommendations from your doctor. Should you really eat less salt? On Jan. 28, he dropped a bombshell on the artificial sweetener industry and Reagan’s shocking secret. Today, he lays out a disturbing connection between arthritis and red meat. If you or a loved one suffers from arthritis or diabetes, you’ll want to read this immediately.]

If you or a loved one suffers from arthritis or diabetes, today’s message will be of special importance to you.

It has to do with truths about what we eat and what it does to us.

As you’ve probably heard, “An aspirin a day keeps the doctor away.”

For many people, just a baby aspirin — 81 milligrams — can take away enough inflammation to reduce your chances of ever getting a modern-day killer like stroke.

But there’s something far better you can do to live longer and healthier without taking a drug (remember: Even aspirin can cause bad side effects in some people)… and the research behind it is overwhelming.

Stop eating red meat.

At first, it probably sounds laughable.

How can giving up red meat help your arthritis?

The answer may surprise you.

Because eating red meat may be doing far worse than causing pain from arthritis — it may be slowly killing you.

Meanwhile, the USDA reports that Americans eat, on average, about 100 pounds of red meat a year.

Compare this with the 15 pounds of fish and shellfish most people eat.

Really? Is red meat that bad for us? True, doctors and scientists have been telling people to get off red meat for decades because of the cholesterol. But maybe you didn’t hear the rest of the message — epidemiologists showed years ago that people who eat red meat get more cancers.

Somehow, I’ll bet you’ve never heard that scientifically confirmed fact. Maybe it has something to do with the amount of money cattle ranchers pour into lobbying and advertising?

Until very recently, scientists had no idea why this was happening — they didn’t understand what the trigger in meat is that results in cancers in your body. But a study published just a few weeks ago in the prestigious journal PNAS — Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences — may offer the surprising answer.

It turns out that red meat is loaded with a nonhuman sialic acid called N-glycolylneuraminic acid, or Neu5Gc. When it was fed to mice in the studies, they got five times the cancers they normally have.

That acid is not found in humans but it is found in lots of mammals, including the ones we eat. And in red meat, the acid apparently causes cancers by setting off systemic inflammation. And it isn’t just cancers. Researchers conducting the study say it’s likely the inflammation from Neu5Gc in red meat also could cause hardening of the arteries and plaque formation, as well as Type 2 diabetes.

You see, Neu5Gc isn’t human, so your own immune system will attack it, and that’s what sets up the inflammatory response. Your white blood cells attack the invader, which is likely to be found in tissues throughout your body.

And when your immune system gets really revved up, it can attack a lot of perfectly healthy tissues. Your own immune system is the only cause of Type 1 diabetes, for example. It’s an autoimmune disease. And the likely cause of many deadly autoimmune diseases is inflammation. In fact, inflammation may even be the cause of Alzheimer’s disease in many people.

Rheumatoid arthritis… caused by inflammation?

If this is true, why are so many of us still eating red meat?

The Ugly Truth

It’s time to wake up and notice the hard science on this subject! We’ve known for a long time that eating red meat is bad for you. Just like people knew for a long time, even when the tobacco lords swore before Congress that it wasn’t so, that cigarettes caused cancer. We knew, the message was out there but we stayed in denial. Quitting seemed so hard to do. For a lot of people, red meat may be nearly as addictive.

But make no mistake — the truth has been clear for some time. Three years ago, a study of more than 120,000 people by the Harvard School of Public Health showed that eating red meat can dramatically raise the incidence of cancer and heart disease. It’s a simple correlation — all other factors equalized, the people in the study who died sooner ate red meat.

And by the way, get off the pork too.

Don’t be fooled by the ad slogan that calls pork “the other white meat.” That sort of cleverness only reminds me of George Orwell’s novel 1984. Red meats include beef, pork and lamb. The simple truth, the Harvard study showed, is that you are likely to die far earlier if you eat a lot of red meat.

But wait a minute. Didn’t a Harvard School of Public Health study way back in 2004 show us that a diet rich in red meat might cause strokes? Oh, and long before that, remember the studies that showed grilled meats probably cause cancer?

And on and on.

This Is Not New Science

So why is the message so obscure? Why don’t we hear more about these studies? Why do school lunch programs feed our kids red meat? Well, you might want to look up the American Meat Institute (originally the American Meat Packers Association). It was formed in 1906, immediately after the federal government decided too many people were getting sick from meats and that it had become necessary to inspect meat packing plants. Yes, the AMI has been around for more than a century trying to ward off the bad publicity about meats. And the bad news has been around at least that long.

About 200 companies are members of the Meat Institute, and they produce about 90% of the red meat sold in America. In 1979, AMI moved from Chicago to Washington, where I presume they had far more influence.

AMI’s website says, “The meat and poultry industry is the largest segment of United States agriculture. Total meat and poultry production in 2012 reached more than 93.1 billion pounds. Annual sales for 2011, the last year for which statistics are available, are estimated at more than $185.8 billion among the meat packing, meat processing and poultry processing industries.”

Wow, that’s a lot of oxen that get gored if the public finds out eating meat is bad for you.

The website doesn’t skip a beat as we discover in our daily newspapers that the vast majority of antibiotics produced in America are fed to the animals we eat and that by some unlucky coincidence all our antibiotics are meeting resistance among deadly bacteria.

The website states: “All antibiotics used to keep animals healthy have been evaluated through a rigorous approval process, have been shown to be safe and effective and have been reviewed for their potential to cause increased antibiotic resistance. Consumers can be confident that this process ensures the safest meat in the world ends up on America’s dinner tables.”

Actually, I don’t see how anyone or any group can say that anything about meat — red or white or brown like a duck — is “safe,” much less good for you.

Wise up. There are lots of healthy and tasty ways to get protein in your diet without consuming meat. I know you’ll miss the tasty fat — your body is deeply conditioned to like it. When I stopped eating all meats in 2008, I really missed steak for a while.

But after about six months, steak disgusted me, and I craved vegetables.

Believe me, in your heart, you won’t miss it.

To a bright future,

Stephen Petranek
for The Daily Reckoning

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Stephen Petranek

Stephen Petranek’s career of over 40 years in the publishing world is marked by numerous prizes and awards for excellent writing on science, nature, technology, politics, economics and more. He has been editor-in-chief of the Miami Herald’s prestigious Sunday magazine, Tropic, and has covered a wide range of topics for Time Inc.’s Life magazine. His...

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