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Does Red Meat Increase Inflammation?

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(The Answer May Shock You!)

Inflammation has emerged as a prominent risk factor for chronic diseases, spanning cardiovascular issues, cancers, mood disorders, and even neurological conditions like Parkinson’s.

The impact of dietary choices on inflammation levels has become a subject of intense scrutiny, with mainstream advice often advocating a plant-based diet while limiting red meat and saturated fat.

But does this advice align with scientific evidence, or is it influenced by dietary dogma and corporate interests?

Recent research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition takes a closer look at dietary drivers of inflammation and “the beef with beef”.

By Kelley Herring

The Key Role of C-Reactive Protein (CRP) in Disease Risk

At the heart of this recent study lies C-reactive protein (CRP), an indispensable marker of systemic inflammation intricately linked to chronic diseases.

With more than 68,000 studies on CRP at the National Library of Medicine, a wealth of scientific inquiry has probed into the correlation between levels of this inflammatory marker and its relationship to the development of chronic diseases.

In fact, your CRP levels serve as a potent predictor of disease risk, with numerous studies showcasing its tight tie with the biggest killers, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and certain cancers.i,ii,iii

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Does Red Meat Increase Levels of Inflammation?

Because of C-reactive protein’s prowess as a predictive biomarker, researchers at Baylor College of Medicine sought out to evaluate the diets of more than 4,000 participants.

Using blood metabolite data, the researchers aimed to tease out the truth about how red meat impacts levels of inflammation.

Lead researcher, Dr. Alexis Wood notes:

“The role of diet, including red meat, on inflammation and disease risk has not been adequately studied, which can lead to public health recommendations that are not based on strong evidence…Our team sought to take a closer look by using metabolite data in the blood, which can provide a more direct link between diet and health.”

The researchers analyzed the cross-sectional data from adults participating in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). By using the participants’ self-reported food intake and several blood biomarkers, researchers analyzed metabolites in blood.

They discovered that when the data was adjusted for body mass index (BMI), intake of unprocessed and processed red meat (beef, pork or lamb) was NOT directly associated with ANY markers of inflammation.

Contrary to common assumptions, it was the participants’ body weight – not their red meat intake – that served as the driver of increased systemic inflammation.

Of particular importance was the absence of a link between overall red meat intake and C-reactive protein (CRP):

“Our analysis adds to the growing body of evidence that indicates the importance of measuring plasma markers, such as metabolites, to track diet and disease risk associations, versus relying on self-reported dietary intake alone. Our analysis does not support previous observational research associations linking red meat intake and inflammation.”

Embracing Ancestral Wisdom and Evidence-Based Dietary Choices

This groundbreaking study adds a powerful layer to the case for embracing ancestral eating, standing firm against the conventional push towards a “plant-based diet.”

By understanding the critical role of key markers in the development of disease, we can now sculpt diets that not only fit our unique needs … but also actively work to lower our risk of chronic illnesses.

Here are a few research-backed ways to help keep your levels of inflammation in a healthy range:

  1. Regular Exercise: Exercise has been consistently shown to reduce CRP levels. A meta-analysis found that regular physical activity significantly decreases CRP, highlighting the anti-inflammatory effects of exercise.iv
  2. A Low Sugar/Low Carb Diet Rich in Healthy Fats: Adopting a diet low in sugar and with a low glycemic index has been associated with lower CRP levels. Research indicates that excessive intake of carbohydrates and sugars can contribute to inflammation. A study published in Diabetes Care found that diets with a higher glycemic load are positively correlated with elevated CRP concentrations, emphasizing the impact of dietary choices on inflammatory markers. Another study published in Lipids indicated that a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet resulted in reduced levels of CRP, suggesting a potential anti-inflammatory impact.v,vi,vii Opt for a diet built on nutrient-dense grass-fed, pasture-raised and wild meats, poultry, eggs and seafood, healthy and stable native fats (like grass-fed butter, tallow, lard and coconut oil) accompanied by above ground-vegetables and low glycemic fruits like wild berries (in moderation).
  3. Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish and fish oil supplements, have anti-inflammatory properties. A study published in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases showed that omega-3 supplementation led to a significant decrease in CRP levels.viii Choose wild-caught, low-contaminant, omega-3-rich seafood, including wild sockeye salmon, mackerel, sardines, shrimp, and scallops.
  4. Adequate Sleep: Sleep plays a vital role in regulating inflammation, and insufficient sleep has been linked to elevated CRP levels. In a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, participants with inadequate sleep showed higher CRP concentrations.iv
  5. Weight Management: Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for reducing inflammation. A study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism demonstrated a strong association between obesity and increased CRP levels.x

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kelley herring

Kelley Herring

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  1.  Ridker PM, Hennekens CH, Buring JE, Rifai N. C-reactive protein and other markers of inflammation in the prediction of cardiovascular disease in women. N Engl J Med. 2000;342(12):836-843.Di Napoli M, Schwaninger M, Cappelli R, et al. Evaluation of C-reactive protein measurement for assessing the risk and prognosis in ischemic stroke: a statement for health care professionals from the CRP Pooling Project members. Stroke. 2005;36(6):1316-1329.
  2. Heikkilä K, Harris R, Lowe G, Rumley A, Yarnell J, Gallacher J. Associations of circulating C-reactive protein and interleukin-6 with cancer risk: findings from two prospective cohorts and a meta-analysis. Cancer Causes Control. 2009;20(1):15-26.
  3. Petersen, A. M., & Pedersen, B. K. (2005). The anti-inflammatory effect of exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology, 98(4), 1154-1162.
  4. Qi, L., Rimm, E., Liu, S., Rifai, N., Hu, F. B., & Qi, L. (2006). Dietary glycemic index, glycemic load, cereal fiber, and plasma adiponectin concentration in diabetic men. Diabetes care, 29(6), 1386-1391.
  5. Lopez-Garcia, E., Schulze, M. B., Fung, T. T., Meigs, J. B., Rifai, N., Manson, J. E., … & Hu, F. B. (2004). Major dietary patterns are related to plasma concentrations of markers of inflammation and endothelial dysfunction. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 80(4), 1029-1035.
  6. Forsythe, C. E., Phinney, S. D., Fernandez, M. L., Quann, E. E., Wood, R. J., Bibus, D. M., … & Kraemer, W. J. (2008). Comparison of low fat and low carbohydrate diets on circulating fatty acid composition and markers of inflammation. Lipids, 43(1), 65-77.
  7. Di Giuseppe, D., Wallin, A., Bottai, M., Askling, J., & Wolk, A. (2009). Long-term intake of dietary long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and risk of rheumatoid arthritis: a prospective cohort study of women. Annals of the rheumatic diseases, 68(4), 402-405.
  8. Meier-Ewert, H. K., Ridker, P. M., Rifai, N., Regan, M. M., Price, N. J., Dinges, D. F., & Mullington, J. M. (2004). Effect of sleep loss on C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker of cardiovascular risk. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 43(4), 678-683.
  9. Vgontzas, A. N., Papanicolaou, D. A., Bixler, E. O., Lotsikas, A., Zachman, K., Kales, A., … & Chrousos, G. P. (1999). Circadian interleukin-6 secretion and quantity and depth of sleep. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 84(8), 2603-2607