Red meat: how much is too much?
By Thomas DeLauer
HYLETE Community Captain, Thomas DeLauer, explains the link between red meat and weight loss as well as the link between red meat and hormones. Get the full deep dive in the short video.
Are you ready to conquer this new year? Check out Thomas' video explaining the benefits of HIIT vs LISS training.
About Thomas DeLauer
From 280 lbs. to the magazine covers... All by living a lifestyle that is honest and real. Thomas DeLauer brings nutrition expertise along with a unique perspective on health and wellness that is everything HYLETE.
The following is a transcription of the above video:
What is the link between red meat and weight loss? And what is the link between red meat and our hormones? Look, I'm a guy that's not a huge proponent of eating large amounts of meat. But I also have to do a service to those who are watching this video, and lay out the facts. So, what I want to do here is, I want to explain how red meat is linked with our testosterone, linked with our estrogen, but also how much red meat you can get away with consuming before it ever becomes dangerous, or it ever becomes a cancer-causing issue.
So, let's take a look at the science, and let's do some deep dives into the hormones, into the frequency, and also into what you can do, personally.
Let's go ahead and start off with the link between red meat, and testosterone and estrogen. It does not matter if you are male or female, we still have to take a look at these two pivotal hormones, because they play such a role when it comes down to our body composition, but also how we feel. The first thing we want to look at is the link between red meat and the mineral known as zinc. It's pretty common knowledge that red meat has zinc, and it's fairly common knowledge, at least on the Internet, that zinc helps to unlock testosterone.
But scientists and researchers don't really know why. You see, all they've really found is a correlation. When zinc levels are low, testosterone levels are low. We can start to hypothesize it has to do with the estrogen component, which I'll explain in just a minute. The other thing we have to look at with red meat is the high levels of what is called arachidonic acid. Arachidonic acid is, unfortunately, an omega-6.
Now, omega-6's, I'm not a big fan of. But in small amounts, they do play a big role. Arachidonic acid plays a very powerful role when it comes down to steroidogenesis, which is the creation of testosterone in the testes of men. And actually a little bit, in a small degree, in the ovaries of females. So, it's very, very important. If we don't have this arachidonic acid that's in sort of the visceral fat that is in red meat, we don't produce enough testosterone.
But additionally, when we start factoring that in with the zinc, it starts to make sense. You see, our zinc levels when they are low, we don't produce as much testosterone. But a lot of the reasons it's hypothesized to do that is simply because low levels of zinc increase the amount of estrogen receptors in the body. When we have more estrogen receptors, we are more susceptible to high levels of estrogen.
You see, the way it works is that if we have a large amount of testosterone in the body, and we have a large amount that we are not utilizing, that extra amount goes through what is called aromatization. That process means that, that extra testosterone gets converted into estrogen. So, if we have more estrogen receptors in our bodies, we have a higher likelihood of that extra testosterone getting converted into estrogen.
Then it turns into a vicious circle, because once our levels of estrogen start creeping up, our levels of estrogen inversely go down. So, we don't want this. So, that increasingly gets worse, and worse, and worse. Higher levels of estrogen means more water retention. It means more of that spare tire. It's the things that you don't really want. You want to have your self be right in balance.
There's also another component of red meat that we want to look at, too, and that's iron. Now, if you've watched my videos before, you know that I'm not a big fan of taking in extra iron. I'm a firm believer that we get enough iron already. The problem isn't that we're not getting enough iron or that we're anemic, the problem is that we have bio available iron and non-bio available iron, iron that's actually literally, bound up in our body not being used.
Now, when we look at this, we understand that there's non-heme iron and there's heme iron. Heme iron is coming from the red meat sources, the fish sources, things like that. No-heme iron is coming from the plant sources. Well, it's been shown in studies that the non-heme iron does not absorb nearly as well. We're talking about a two to 20 percent bioavailability, versus the heme iron coming in at more like a 7 to 37 percent bioavailability. Big, big difference. Now again, this isn't the key, here, but it still plays a big role when it comes down to producing oxygen that's gonna allow us to have more testosterone and feel better in the first place.
So, let's take a look at the first study of this video. This study took a look at eight male participants. They were divided into two groups. One group was a lacto-ovo vegetarian group, which means that they consumed milk products, and they consumed eggs. But other than that, they were vegetarian. And then we have another group that was sort of a mixed group. They ate meat products.
So, what we wanted to look at was the overall levels of serum testosterone. Now, both of these groups, they had consumed the same macro-nutrient ratios. The same level of proteins, fats, and carbs. So, there's no real change in the diet other than the fact that red meat was implemented into the group that was consuming the meat, of course.
So, when we look at the end result, it was pretty interesting. The lacto-ovo group ended up resulting in a lower testosterone level, at 13.7 nanomoles per liter, whereas the group that had some meat ended up ending at 17.4 nanomoles per liter. Now, here's where it gets kind of interesting. This was total serum testosterone. This isn't the free testosterone. So, what's interesting is that the free testosterone didn't change, and the gonadotropins didn't change, the precursors to testosterone. We only saw an increase in total testosterone, which doesn't really mean a whole lot.
So, why would I include this study when it doesn't really make a whole lot of sense? Well, stick with me, because I'm going to connect the dots, and it's all going to add up. The point is, at least the meat group had a total increase in testosterone. So, let's look at estrogen now, for a second. The Journal of Public Health published a study that said that groups that were consuming a vegetarian-style diet had lower levels of E1 and E2, two different types of estrogen, than those that consumed meat.
So, why again, am I including this study? It just doesn't make sense. Why is Thomas saying, ""Total testosterone increases and estrogen's lower in the vegetarian group""? Sounds like I'm trying to promote a vegetarian lifestyle. No, I'm not, actually. What I'm trying to get to is the fact that it's the kinds of meat that we are consuming. You see, when we start looking at these studies, we realize that the meat sources are US red meat sources. And the problem with the US red meat sources is all the steroid implantations and all the estrogen that is being fed to them.
So, let's take a look at another study that acts as a tie breaker, and allows this to all make some serious sense. In a study that was published in the Annals of Oncology, it was found that US beef, compared to Japanese beef, ended up having 11 times higher concentrations of E1, and 140 times higher concentrations of E2, estradiol, the active form of estrogen. 140X in US beef versus Japanese beef, which is shown to be some of the highest quality beef.
Now, that's not to say that you can't get true grass-fed, grass-finished beef in the States. But the point is that, if you take a look at the big picture and you realize that red meat is going to increase total testosterone levels, and if you're doing it in a way that's also not gonna consequently increase your estrogen levels, you're putting yourself in a great situation. You're increasing testosterone, but you're potentially reducing estrogen levels, meaning that testosterone can go to work and not go through its aromatization process and turn into estrogen.
What about how often you should consume red meat? I'm gonna be honest with you, here. I don't consume a whole lot of red meat. The meat that I do consume is usually pretty lean, in the way of chicken, and lean in the way of fish. And I'll consume red meat here and there. But the fact is, we need to understand how much red meat you can truly get away with. Because we understand, at least here in the States, that there's some people that just love their red meat. They just don't feel good without it. And they're probably dying to know, ""How much of this stuff can I consume before it's a problem?"" So, let's take a look at some of this.
Well, I'll put your mind at ease when I say that studies really show that it's the mycotoxins and the steroid implantations that have the links to diseases. It's much less the red meat consumption, and it's more the processing. So, when you're looking at processed meats, you're looking at the roast beefs, or you're looking at the low-quality meats, the low-quality beefs, those are the ones that end up causing the issues.
So, let's look at some science. There's a meta-analysis that took a look at 20 studies, with over 1.2 million people involved. And what they wanted to look at was the link to coronary disease, to cardiac disease, and just any kind of terminal disease, or things that are just unhealthy in general. So, they took a look at processed meats and unprocessed meats. And they found that the processed meats had a direct link with heart disease, with diabetes, and some cancers. Not really surprised there. But guess what? They found the unprocessed red meat had no link to heart disease, no link to the cancers, and no link to the diabetes. Just general health markers. They found that really, where things get messy, is most of the studies that say red meat is bad are grouping in all the processed red meats too, again, the roast beefs, the deli meats, and things like that. They're not looking at true, good quality red meat.
The other thing that we have to look at is how this red meat is cooked. None of us want to be that dorky dad that's obsessed grilling, okay? But, the fact is, if you start becoming a little bit more of a grill master, you might reduce the risk of cancer. It all has to do with heterocyclic amines. Believe it or not, how we cook the red meat makes a big difference. Remember those arachidonic acids I talked about at the beginning of the video? Well, if they react with high temperature, those omega-6's can cause something that's very carcinogenic. They create what are called heterocyclic amines. These HCA's are what trigger cancer within your body. So, we don't want that. You want to cook your beef at a little bit lower temperature, little bit of a slower rate. Maybe, put it in a smoker, or cook it at a low temp. It makes a huge difference. And then you're not having a charred steak, anyway.
But I want to end this video with one really awesome study. And this study, I think, just groups it all together. Because it screams moderation, and it screams balance, and it screams what most of us are after, to be honest. This study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. And it took a look at 41 participants. What they did is, they divided these participants into two groups that were consuming a Mediterranean-style diet. One Mediterranean-style group consumed about a half a pound of red meat per week, and the other group consumed about a pound of red meat per week. Both groups consumed a lot of plants, and they consumed a lot of healthy fats.
They were consuming olive oil, they were eating coconut oil, they were doing all the right things and eating a high plant-based diet, with the exception of adding some meat in a healthy way. Well, what was found is at the end of the study, both groups ended up having very healthy markers, overall. Both groups were in amazing shape, and in better shape than they started out the study in. But what was interesting is, the group that consumed a little bit more red meat actually lost about a pound more, on average. This is pretty cool.
Now, again, we don't understand why, other than the fact that if we truly look at the hormonal values, it was probably an estrogen related thing. You see, we are talking about Europe, for the most part, where we're having good quality meats, and we're having good quality things that we are looking at. So, when we're looking at sort of, that Mediterranean style diet, reduction and inflammation, everything is healthy, right? You have this nice, balanced body. But you're looking at good quality meats, so you probably had that reduction in estrogen. Now, like I mentioned before, high levels of estrogen trigger water retention. So, we probably lost a pound in water and in fat, just by reducing the estrogen levels, by having a little bit more red meat.
Now, a pound of red meat per week doesn't sound like a whole lot, but if you're consuming 4 to 6 ounces, that's a few times a week that you can have red meat for dinner, and you're not gonna have an issue. You don't have to be worried about cancer, you don't have to be worried about heart disease and clogging your arteries. That has more to do with the soy, and more to do with the garbage that you're consuming.