Why is meat pro-inflammatory? Why are animal products harmful to our health?

We often get this question from our patients. We also once thought…why not chicken…why not cheese. We understand educational systems lack nutritional guidance and health industries heavily advertise animal products as the primary nutritional source. Daily, we are faced with our own cultural and social spheres that challenge our food choices. However, it’s the science of food that continues to solidify our journey of plant based living.

Several months ago, I (Melissa) gave an introductory lecture of nutrition and culinary medicine to first year preventive and family medicine residents. I presented the evidence below that can sheds light upon the disease provoking components of beef, pork, chicken, turkey, eggs, cheese, fish, and shellfish.

Animal Products contain saturated fat, dietary cholesterol, antibiotics, carcinogens, IGF-1, Heme Iron, Neu5Gc, and TMAO.

  1. Animal products contain Saturated fat is comprised of fatty acids found in primarily animal products. Saturated fat is a source of inflammation, heart attacks, and strokes. American Heart Association recommends a heart healthy diet to include 5%-6% of total calories from saturated fat. By eating a whole food plant based diet, it is very easy to meet these requirements. Additionally, many individuals eat plant based foods exceed these requirements because they add excessive amounts of olive oil, coconut oil, or avocado oil.
  1. Animal products contain Dietary Cholesterol increases Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) Oxidation. Routinely patients get a lipid panel and physicians highlight LDL to assess the likelihood of a cardiovascular event. If LDL is high, there is greater chance of stroke or heart attack.
  2. 70-80% of antibiotics used in the U.S are given to healthy livestock animals to avoid infections, which is a major contributor to increasingly virulent antibiotic-resistant infections.
  3. Chemical compounds such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, heterocyclic amines, and advanced glycation end products are carcinogens/mutagens/pro-inflammatory.
  4. IGF-1 is naturally found in animals and humans stimulates human cancer proliferation.
  5. Heme Iron is pro-oxidative and can increase colorectal cancer risk, atherosclerosis, and reduce insulin sensitivity.
  6. Neu5Gc found in animal products promotes chronic inflammation.
  7. TMAO. CHOLINE which comes from eggs, and CARNITINE which comes from meat, gets converted to a molecule called TMA by the gut microbiome in the intestines. TMA gets converted to TMAO in the liver, then circulates in the vasculature and causes INFLAMMATION

1. Hever J, Cronise RJ. Plant-based nutrition for healthcare professionals: Implementing diet as a primary modality in the prevention and treatment of chronic disease. http://www.jgc301.com/ch/reader/create_pdf.aspx?file_no=S_20170301012&flag=1

2. Hever J. Plant-Based Diets: A Physician’s Guide. The Permanente Journal. July 2016. http://www.thepermanentejournal.org/files/Summer2016/PlantBasedDiets.pdf