Technology has resulted in the change of the healthiest meats. In the past, cattle herds grazed in open fields of natural grass and chickens were allowed to run free. Nowadays, these fields have all disappeared and replaced with industrial buildings. Animals are now under the care of professional farmers who breed and feed them for commercial purposes only.
In order to maximize efficiency, most modern farms confine their animals in small areas so that the farmers can deliver their food and remove their waste with minimal effort. Such confinement systems are thought to minimize the cost of cattle and chicken and make the business more efficient and profitable. Instead of allowing animals to roam freely in green pastures, they are confined so that the pastures can be used to plant and harvest crops.
Maximum efficiency is such a priority that even livestock feed has been designed to reduce costs and to make animals grow fatter faster.
It is important to note that humans will in turn consume both nutrients and toxins consumed by animals. We will examine three commonly consumed types of meat and their implications on anti-aging.
Grass is the traditional diet for cattle. In recent decades, the use of grain to feed cattle is preferred due to its lower cost and faster harvest time. The most popular are wheat, maize, rice, barley, soybean, and cane sugar.
While grains are cheap and provide an easy source of energy, the rapid rise in blood sugar from grains intake causes the pancreas in humans or animals alike to overwork in an attempt to lower blood sugar by increasing insulin production. This leads to an increase in blood insulin level and ultimately to insulin resistance and diabetes. In animals, a diet rich in grains promotes rapid growth and weight gain. Excess calories are transformed into fat and stored as adipose tissue. Grain fed cattle therefore have a higher level of saturated fat than grass fed cattle. The craving for fat laden beef is carried to the extreme with Kobe beef, a special type of "gourmet" beef that comes from cattle fed with beer (which comes from grains). Cereal grains also contain low and undetectable amounts of vitamin C, B12, and other vitamins and minerals. They act as anti-nutrients by competing and displacing nutrients that are associated with a decreased risk of heart disease and many forms of common cancers.
The grain fed diet leads to increase in the amount of fat in the meat, as excess sugar from grain is converted into fat. In the case of beef, the fat and cholesterol is around and inside the meat. The fat is in the meat and on the skin in the case of poultry. Both the saturated fat and oxidized cholesterol, through free radical pathology, have been identified as causes of atherosclerosis, heart attack, high blood pressure, cancer, and other life-threatening degenerative diseases.
Beef from grain fed cattle is also high in saturated fat, which is not subject to lipid peroxidation and free radical pathology. Such beef, unfortunately, also contains a high level of PUFA and cholesterol, both of which undergo auto-oxidation. This results in free radical generation and contribute to a wide variety of free radical related diseases including , cancer, and arthritis, just to name a few.
Polyunsaturated fat (PUFA) is a prominent component of grains such as corn. Omega 3 (N3) and omega 6 (N6) (EFAs) are two important subgroups of PUFA. Both are essential for normal growth and may play an important role in the prevention and treatment of coronary artery disease, arthritis and cancer. N3 in particular is critical for cell membrane stabilization. A proper balance of N6 to N3 EFA ratio is an important determinant of optimum health.
In the past 100 years, there has been a rapid and unprecedented change in the diets of both men and animals. Modern agriculture increased production by emphasizing grain feeds for domestic livestock. Grains are rich in N6 EFAs compare to N3 EFAs. The result is an overall increase of N6 EFA and decrease of N3 EFA in the diet. N6 and N3 EFAs should be clearly distinguished because they are metabolically and functionally distinct. Although both are important, they have opposing physiological functions. Researches have now shown that the proper balance of N6 to N3 EFA ratio is more important than the ratio of PUFA to saturated fat for determining optimum health. Taking in grain fed beef leads to an imbalance of the N6 to N3 ratio in favor of N6 EFAs.
The products of modern agriculture frequently have much lower N3 EFA levels. Our modern day diet is heavily dependent on grains, grain fed beef, refined carbohydrates, and processed vegetable oils. This combination has an estimated N6 to N3 EFA ratio of 20 or 40 to 1. For optimum anti-aging health, a diet rich in green leafy vegetables, and small amount of lean meat and fish, with a N6 to N3 EFA ratio of 4 to 1, is recommended.
It is obvious that we are what we eat. It is also important to note that our animals too, are what they eat. Unfortunately, like us, their grain fed diet is not the best.
The diet of cattle includes antibiotics. The major purpose of feeding antibiotics to cows, sheep and other livestock is to promote growth. Animals that receive antibiotics in their feed often gain 4 to 5 percent more body weight than animals that do not receive the drug. More than 5,000 tons of antibiotics are added to livestock feed every year. This adds up to about half of the amount manufactured in the United States. More than 70 percent of beef cattle and beef calves get daily drug doses during their lifespan.
A report from the National Research Council has acknowledged that there is a link between the use of antibiotics in food animals, the development of bacterial resistance to these drugs, and human disease. This is despite the fact that contracting the disease is rather low. Those at the greatest risk include infants, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.
Overfeeding of antibiotics in cattle raising poses serious effects on human health. Antibiotic resistant bacteria inevitably develop in the cattle, which can easily be transmitted to humans through consumption of meat or through human contact with living animals. This leads to a reduction in the efficiency of antibiotics in fighting infections and reduced levels of favorable intestinal bacteria, which could increase susceptibility to intestinal infections (such as acute gastroenteritis with fever, pain, and diarrhea). A depressed immune system also results which could lower resistance to infections and increase allergic reactions.
Antibiotic resistance could pose serious medical implications. For example, some strains of Salmonella bacteria, which can be transmitted to humans through food or contact with animals, are now resistant to commonly used antibiotics.
Besides antibiotics, an array of natural and synthetic hormones found in meat is given to cattle and other livestock to promote growth and cause their meat to be tastier for human consumption. These hormones enter the human body via external sources and are therefore called environmental hormones. The Food and Drug Administration approve these hormones.
For instance, diethylstilbestrol (DES), a sex steroid hormone which was prohibited from human use, could cause a 15 to 19 percent increase in weight (mostly fat) and a 7 to 10 percent improvement in feed efficiency (that is, weight gained per pound of feed) in beef cattle.
However, when meat laced with DES is consumed, our endocrine balance is upset, even in minute amounts. These compounds are very potent and are measured in parts per trillion. In fact, the endocrine system produces its own hormones to control the various bodily functions such as the metabolic rate, growth and reproductive systems. When the system balance is disturbed, it promotes disease.
It is now known that any amount of hormones beyond the normal level present in a healthy person is capable of inviting cancer and other serious health problems. Like in women, increasing levels of the hormone estrogen are related to cancers of the breasts, ovaries and cervix. Other implications include high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. DES was consumed by 85 percent of all livestock in the United States until 1979 when the Food and Drug Administration finally banned it.
Treating animals with varies types of hormones remains a widely accepted practice within the U.S. meat industry. Hormone pellets are regularly inbred in virtually all cattle. The cost was offset by the increase in pounds of beef produced. While DEA is now illegal, alternative compounds may cause similar problems including disparity of the endocrine system and increased risk of cancer. Unfortunately, detection of such insult may not be apparent for decades. When finally discovered, the damage may have been too great to reverse. Are you prepared to expose your body to such potential risks? Is there such a thing as healthy beef? Grass-fed cattle are a healthy source of beef.
Grass-fed beef is naturally leaner than grain-fed beef due to the lack of hormones and carbohydrates.
The key is in the fatty acid composition of the meat as earlier discussed. Their balance is important for homeostasis and normal development. Grass-fed cattle have the recommended ratio of N6 to N3, which is closer to ratio
Grass-fed beef contains natural minerals and vitamins and is also a good source of CLA (conjugated Linoleic acid), a fat that reduces the risk of cancer, obesity, diabetes and a number of immune disorders. Thus grass-fed beef is considered a healthy source of protein and good source of N3 EFA.
Unfortunately, grass-fed beef is not readily available. Beef that is labeled "organic" does not contain the same goodness as grass-fed beef although such cattle are not exposed to antibiotics, growth hormones, and pesticide-tainted grains. It may therefore appear to be a good source of beef. The best way is to find grass fed beef is through a farmer whom you know and share a grass fed cattle with some of your friends. One quarter of a cow is about 150 pounds and generally takes about two freezer shelves.
Mad cow disease, also known as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), is a chronic, degenerative disease affecting the central nervous system of cattle. It is a rare neurological disorder. There is no test to detect the disease in a live animal. The incubation period that ranges from 2 to 8 years. The affected cattle may display changes in temperament, such as nervousness or aggression, incoordination, or decreased milk production. Once clinical symptoms appear, the course of the disease usually takes from 2 weeks to 6 months. There is no treatment, and affected cattle eventually die. Microscopic examination of brain tissue is the primary laboratory method used to confirm a diagnosis of BSE.
The first reports of BSE appeared in England in 1986. It is linked to the practice of supplementing cattle food with bone meal prepared from slaughtered sheep. This linkage is contemplated because the symptoms are strikingly similar to that of the disease in sheep known as scrapie. When the brains of these cattle were examined, there was clear evidence of spongiform encephalopathy.
BSE is a kind of disease that falls into a broader class of disease known as spongiform encephalopathy. In cattle, an encephalopathic condition means that the brain is pathologically damaged, and spongiform means that if one examines the diseased brain tissue, the diseased tissue is spongy - porous - no longer intact. BSE belongs to the family of diseases known as the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE's). There are also several human diseases that fall into this category of spongiform encephalopathies, and include: kuru, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and Gerstmann-Str?sler-Scheinker syndrome of humans.
It is first postulated that some unidentified infectious agent passes this disease from one species to another. The most likely causative agent is a new kind of suspected infectious agent called a prion - the term prion is an acronym coined several years ago by the scientist, Stanley Prusiner. The acronym stands for: proteinaceous infectious particle. Prusiner's research into the best-documented spongiform encephalopathy, sheep scrapie, showed that the only identifiable thing, which could transmit this disease from animal to animal, was a new infectious agent never before identified. The disease appeared to be transmitted by pure protein, alone. Stanley Prusner was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for this work in 1997.
The BSE agent is much smaller than most viral particles. It is also highly resistant to heat, ultraviolet light, ionizing radiation, and common disinfectants that normally kills viruses or bacteria. It causes no detectable immune or inflammatory response in the host, and cannot be observed microscopically. There is no evidence that BSE spreads horizontally, i.e., by contact between unrelated adult cattle of from cattle to other species. Some evidence suggests that maternal transmission may occur at an extremely low level.
While certain variants of viruses have been known for a long, long time - every such agent contains a genome that controls reproduction. No form of life on earth has ever been identified which can propagate its own form and is devoid of either DNA or RNA. Only viruses have RNA as a possible genome - all other known life forms have only DNA as their central genetic information. No mechanism known to date can explain how a protein alone can serve as a template for making many copies of the same protein, or for a protein alone to cause infection.
It is clear is that prions are clearly infectious. When brain tissue from infected animals is treated to isolate the protein (prion) thought to cause scrapie, and the altered form of the protein alone (prion - PrP-sc) is injected into healthy animals, spongiform encephalopathy results. This transmission can be observed by injecting prion preparations from diseased sheep into mice - and the subsequent transmission of the disease from mouse to mouse by purification of prions from a diseased mouse and subsequent injection of healthy mice with these prion preparations.
In addition to these experimental results, another human spongiform encephalopathy disease known as kuru has long been recognized and was first diagnosed among certain human tribes that are cannibals.
The link from BSE to human disease is a form of human spongiform encephalopathy and is known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). Like BSE, CJD is a rare, sporadic, degenerative disease in humans. It usually occurs during the middle decades of life. The course usually ranging from 3 to 6 months in duration, and is manifested by dementia accompanied by motor signs and blindness. CJD enters the human when another person's flesh is eaten. There have been cases of acquisition of this disease through organ transplantation (donor later found to have CJD), and receipt of human blood products (donor later found to have CJD). These patients have, just as the donor, the altered form of PrP within their brain tissue. CJD appears to run in families. It is not known, however, whether there is direct transmission of the disease (via an infectious agent) within the family, or whether there is transmission of genetic susceptibility to the disease.
The best thing to do to avoid CJD is to avoid meat consumption.
In the past few decades, there has been a substantial increase in chicken consumption. To a large extent, this is due to chicken being regarded as a healthy alternative to beef. This is because chicken is perceived to be more nutritious, low in fat, and white meat is healthier than red meat.
Although it is true that some chicken cuts are more nutritious than beef, commercially raised grain fed chicken is not as healthy as one may think. In fact, chicken contains just as much fat and cholesterol as beef. More importantly, chickens are often not allowed to run due to space-constrained coops. They are further tainted with pesticides, antibiotics, hormones,
The truth is, chickens we consume today (non-organic chicken farm raised) are very different from chickens some 50 years ago (organic fed, free range chicken) before the commercialization process began.
The neatly prepared breasts, thighs, and drumsticks on supermarket shelves are often derived from very stressed and diseased animals raised in chicken farms.
These chickens are crammed into close coops and have insufficient fresh air and exercise. Due to the shortage of space and disease-spreading living conditions, these commercial chickens are regularly fed antibiotics and other drugs to render them disease-free. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration has authorized 2,000 chemicals, together with drugs for use in chicken feed. These drugs are usually added with "food" such as corn and soybeans and could even be cardboard, sawdust, used newspapers and even recycled animal feces.
No medication and drugs could protect the chickens from the harmful effects of poor diets and pathetic living conditions. Many commercial chickens can suffer from several health problems such as cancerous tumors, kidney damage, physical deformities, and stunted growth, which remain undetected in their lifetime before being passed to us.
Over 14,000 tons of poultry affected by cancerous tumors are killed yearly. Farmers usually process the diseased poultry into animal feed which are
To prevent the chickens from falling ill, toxins such as pesticides and fungicides are used extensively in the feed. These are eventually concentrated in the meat and are passed to us when we consume the affected chicken parts. These pesticides and herbicides are toxic to all human cells and bodily systems. They could cause damage to the central nervous, cardiovascular, endocrine and immune system. Over time, toxins accumulate in our body as fatty tissues. They weaken our immune system. With a weakened immune system, the aging process is increased.
Although these chickens have met the U.S. Department of Agriculture criteria for human consumption, scientists have linked contaminated poultry to high incidences of diseases including an estimated four billion salmonella cases and Helicobacter pylori infections that occur annually. This is according to a report by the consumer watchdog group, Americans for Safe Food. Salmonella poisoning causes illnesses such as fever, diarrhea and vomiting. H. Pylori causes gastritis. Statistics have shown a connection between food-borne illness to about 9,000 deaths every year in a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
A T-bone steak derives 42 percent of its calories from fat. A chicken thigh or leg is considered as red meat and 56 percent of its calories are from fat, with the skin included. Removing the chicken skin reduces the fat content to 47 percent of calories. Chicken red meat is therefore a high-fat food with or without the skin.
In fact, an average chicken provides more concentrated fat than the finest cuts of beef. Chicken fat is also very concentrated and could damage our arteries, much like beef. Chicken also has just as much cholesterol as beef and pork.
Only chicken breasts with the skins removed are low in fat. This is the healthiest meats to eat
A reduction in chicken consumption is one of the easiest ways to prolong your lifespan. If you must consume chicken, buy the birds that have been grown on a farm that allowed them to run and exercise and are fed organic food. These are called free-range organic chickens. These birds are fed organic feed free of pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics. Meat from such chickens are firmer and they are leaner as compared to commercialized non-organic grain fed chicken.
Free-range organic- fed chickens and their eggs are completely different from commercially raised chickens and eggs. They are high in N3 EFA. In fact, the fatty acid ratio of N6 to N3 EFA is 2 or 3 to 1 in the free-range organic fed chicken and eggs as farm raised chicken.
Fish is generally regarded as a highly desirable source of protein and fatty acids. However, most fish nowadays has lost its nutritional values due to environment pollution.
Supervising the growth of fish is nearly impossible due to its free movements across the waters. Fish consume much toxic wastes, which are polluted materials discharged into their habitats. These toxic wastes are usually industrial waste, sewerage, pesticides, and insecticides. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), dioxin, methyl mercury, and lead also occasionally appear in inland waterways, rivers, and polluted bays. These pollutants, especially PCBs and methyl mercury, could possibly end up in our bodies due to the consumption of affected fish.
Fish also concentrate their toxins in their fatty tissues throughout their lifetimes, just like cattle, chicken, or humans. Large fish are especially exposed to toxins as they consume smaller fishes. Their toxin concentrations are probably 10,000 times more than their smaller counterparts. Fish can also carry disease-causing microorganisms. In fact, they are the cause of many food-borne illnesses.
Researchers have suggested that contamination is so widespread that almost half of the world's fish population is infected with toxins. The only practical solution is to choose fish that is least likely to be exposed to toxins and eat them as fresh as possible.
Fish in coastal waters, particularly those near large cities, have alarmingly high levels of toxin concentrations as they are exposed to tons of chemicals. Chemicals are then transferred to our bodies when we consume the contaminated fish.
Even fish raised in commercial fishponds are not immune to toxins. Pesticides and herbicides from nearby fields often pollute their ponds. The most protected fish are generally the cold-water species fish like cod, haddock, perch, and salmon as they thrive in the open seas, which are furthest away from the polluted coastal waters.
In Japan, there was a tragic incident of human poisoning by toxic-laden fish when an unusual epidemic infected the entire population around Minimata Bay in the 1950s. Over 1,500 people died. They were poisoned by high doses of methyl mercury. It was found later that the toxin comes from fish who in turn got the toxin as such toxic chemicals from local industries was dumped into the bay.
Chronic methyl mercury poisoning affects not only the brain and central nervous system but also the reproductive system and many other organs. Its earliest symptoms are neurological in nature, including numbness and tingling in the extremities, difficulty in walking and talking, poor concentration, weakness, and fatigue. These symptoms could progress to spasms, tremors, coma and finally death.
Methyl mercury can trigger toxic effects in doses as low as 150 micrograms each day if consumed over a few months. This can come from over consumption of fish that are toxic over time. A consumption of most commercially available fish twice a week (approximately 8 ounces total) is quite safe.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), methyl mercury limit in fish ranges from 0.5 to 1.0 per million (or 0.5 to 1.0 microgram per gram of fish) in some countries like Finland, Sweden, and Japan. However, there is no ideal and practical way of calculating the amount of methyl mercury we consume from fish. Estimating the amount of methyl mercury is therefore a noble but fruitless exercise.
With global warming and acid rain, larger lake fish like bass, pike, and lake trout may have levels higher than the official set range limit of methyl mercury levels. As acid rain dissolves the deposits of mercury found in rocks and soil, it erodes and washes these chemicals into lakes and seas. Bacterial action then transforms mercury into methyl mercury.
As chronic methyl mercury poisoning creates internal health problems, it greatly speeds up the aging process. Its signs and symptoms have become apparent only after serious cellular breakdown has occurred.
Some supplements are recommended to guard your body against the damaging effects of methyl mercury if you find it difficult to give up fish for good, or you have been consuming fish for more than a few times a week. Vitamin C and the amino acid cysteine are particularly important. They can help the detoxification of methyl mercury and eliminate it from your system. Vitamin E and selenium are scavengers of cell-damaging free radicals and protect your brain and central nervous system. These supplements, while lowering the damage from methyl mercury exposure, do not offer total protection from chronic methyl mercury poisoning.
Even though a fish may escape the toxin in pristine deep ocean waters, it may still experience chemical assault after being captured. In order to slow down the process of decomposition and preserve the freshness from the ocean to land, fishes are normally sprayed with preservatives such as polyphosphates and sulfites (to control mold and yeast), sodium benzoate (to kill bacteria), and polytrisorbate (to keep fish from becoming slimy).
Although these preservatives are FDA approved, there is no law that requires the amount to be disclosed on food labels. These preservatives could very well be imported chemicals. The long-term effect on consumption of many of such chemicals in high doses is not known.
Fish are among the best source of omega-3 fatty acids (N3 EFA) among the healthiest meats. In fact, many people have given up red meat in preference to cold-water fish like herring, mackerel, salmon, and tuna so as to increase their N3 EFA intake as these fatty acids can help prevent heart disease. Extensive research has shown that these fatty acids prevent blood clots and reduce triglycerides. N3 EFAs also helps to relieve arthritis by controlling the production of interleukin-1 and tumor necrosis factor. Both of these inflammation-promoting chemicals are produced by the white blood cells. N3 EFAs helps to boost the immune system and encourage the production of pain and inflammation-fighting prostaglandins. In summary, N3 EFA is good for you, and fish is a good place to get it. There are, however, better place to get N3 EFAs from without the toxins.
In fact, N3 EFA is far more abundant in flaxseed and olive oil than from meat or fish intake. It has been noted that flaxseed and olive oil provides more N3 EFAs than the best cold-water fish. Other lower level N3 EFAs sources are pumpkin seed, soybean and walnut oils. If you want a supply of N3 EFA and you don't like fish or monounsaturated fat such as olive oil, try taking fish oil supplements of about 1,000 to 3,000 milligrams each day, although a high intake of more than 1000 mg a day may carry a risk of harmless fishy burp and smell.
Fish such as trout and herring are good sources of N3 EFAs. They also have 40 percent saturated fat, like that of beef and chicken. Cold-water fish like salmon actually contain 60 percent fat, much higher than beef. To reduce fat, one has to be selective in choosing the right kind of meat. Skinless chicken breast, for example, only has only 16 percent fat. Some fish like sole, haddock, and perch has only 10 percent fat. Protein levels of fish are similar to beef and chicken, which stands around 50 percent.
A recent study in Lipids, a U.S. scientific journal, reported that eating fish appears to protect people against Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. According to a new University of Guelph study of 70 elderly Toronto people, (one-quarter of whom have Alzheimer's disease), it is found the healthy people had higher levels of a fatty acid from fish in their blood than the group with dementia.
If finfish creates health hazards, shellfish such as clams, lobsters, oysters, scallops, and shrimp are much worse. In fact, this kind of seafood has been criticized for their high cholesterol levels. They are in fact also storage tanks of toxins.
Shellfish are actually scavengers, which are found in coastal waters. Their normal diets consist of industrial deposits, sewerage, and fish excrement. They have been traced to be the source for many outbreaks of gastroenteritis, hepatitis epidemics, and typhoid fever.
Here are some tips to healthy fish eating:
It should be apparent by now that if you want to be very safe, it's best to be a vegetarian. Taking eggs are acceptable if the egg is from organic chicken.
If you want to continue taking meat from commercial sources, the following should be noted:
It is clear that not only are we what we eat, but so are our cattle, chickens, and fish. The key to successful anti-aging diet perspective is to have a balanced and moderate amount of each of the important nutrients groups of protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
The Mediterranean diet with a high intake of green leafy vegetables, olive oil (as a source of monounsaturated fat), and moderate amount of fish (as a source of protein and N3 EFA) is the best all around anti-aging diet that most can get used to.
There is very little doubt that following a total vegetarian diet is best for the body. Not everyone wants to be a vegetarian. A proper selective intake of the right source of beef, fish, and poultry is acceptable from a nutritional viewpoint for those who are not. Meat, in the right amount, can be an important part of a healthy diet. Unfortunately, the vast majority of meat nowadays is derived from unhealthy animals. One of the main reasons is that they are almost never fed their natural diets and they do not get to exercise much. Commercially fed animals are not much different from the modern day human equivalent - the couch potato - obese and full of toxin. Would you want your body to be exposed to such "food" which should more aptly be called "toxins"?
If you have to eat meat and want optimum health, consume free-range grass fed beef and free-range organic fed chicken and its eggs. Both provide lean meat rich in omega 3 essential fatty and low in saturated fat, comparatively speaking. Cold-water deep-sea fish such as salmon or tuna are the healthiest meats to consume due to its high omega 3 essential fatty acid and low toxicity, though its fat level is quite high. Two servings (four ounces each) of such fish per week are ample from an anti-aging perspective. The rest of the diet in terms of meat substitute nutrients should consist of seeds, nuts and legumes.
© Copyright 2002 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.