Personal Health

Health Experts Make a Perverse Push for Fat-Rich, Red Meat Diets

Most dietitians say people already have too much protein in their diets. So why is increased meat consumption being promoted in medical journals?

Would a medical journal publish an article pushing for a higher recommended dietary allowance of protein from an author whose e-mail address used to be [email protected]?

The Journal of the American Medical Association did in its June 25 issue this year in an article titled "The Recommended Dietary Allowance of Protein: A Misunderstood Concept."

In its Oct. 15 issue, it had to print a correction stating that author Sharon L. Miller was "formerly employed by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association" and author Robert R. Wolfe received money from the Egg Nutrition Center, National Dairy Council, National Pork Board and Beef Checkoff through the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.


The Cattlemen's Beef Association flack Miller and Robert R. Wolfe, a professor of geriatrics at the Donald W. Reynolds Department of Geriatrics, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, have a paper trial of junk food science articles funded by Big Food.

The dairy industry funded their Protein Metabolism in Response to Ingestion Pattern and Composition of Proteins (Journal of Nutrition, 2002), Miller's New Frontiers in Weight Management (Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2002 April), and her Dietary Calcium and Dairy Modulation of Adiposity and Obesity Risk (Nutrition Reviews, 2004 April).

The Beef Association funded Wolfe's Dietary Protein Intake Impacts Human Skeletal Muscle Protein Fractional Synthetic Rates After Endurance Exercise (American Journal of Physiology -- Endocrinology and Metabolism, 2005 October), and the Danish Meat Association and the Danish Dairy Board sponsored his talk at the Ninth Nordic Nutrition conference in Copenhagen in June 2008.

The talk was on guess what? Protein's crucial role in weight management and satiety!

As director of the Center for Translational Research in Aging and Longevity at the University of Arkansas, Wolfe leads a tireless crusade against the red meat deficiency he and Beef Association see in the elderly.

How many of his "more meat" articles -- Optimal Protein Intake in the Elderly (Clinical Nutrition, 2008 Oct. 27) (with Miller), Role Of Dietary Protein in the Sarcopenia of Aging (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2008 May), The Recommended Dietary Allowance for Protein May Not Be Adequate for Older People to Maintain Skeletal Muscle (Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 2001 June 5), Aging Does Not Impair the Anabolic Response to a Protein-Rich Meal (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2007 August), and Seniors Need More Protein-Rich Food to Decrease Muscle Loss (Medical News Today, 2007) -- have the Beef Association's hoof prints on them?

And Wolfe does not restrict his nostrums to the elderly.

He presided over the infusion with endotoxin of 18 laboratory pigs -- "until the pulmonary arterial pressure reached a pressure similar to that found in trauma victims" -- to reach the conclusion, after killing them and removing their lungs, "that the common practice of providing calories in the form of polyunsaturated [non-red neat] fatty acids to critically ill patients carries the risk of being detrimental to lung function" (Nutrition, 2002 July-Aug. 18).

Yes, the animals died from a saturated -at deficiency! Not from the "risks" perpetrated by Wolfe, et al.

Of course, most people know by now that red meat is a rich and varied source of cancer and cardiovascular disease which is as good for you -- and as necessary -- as cigarettes.

Which is why Big Meat is running scared.

Ninety-five percent of "Registered dietitians reported they believe people already get too much protein in their diet," says the National Cattlemen's Beef Association in its October 2008 quarterly update.

This indicates the need "for widespread dissemination of the scientific evidence supporting the role of protein in optimal health in order to alter the current misperceptions  about protein in the diet," say the Cattlemen.

It also explains Wolfe's fool's errand to JAMA in which he wrote (before a correction was run), "A variety of studies have shown levels of protein intake above the RDA benefiting muscle mass, strength, and function, bone health, maintenance of energy balance, cardiovascular function and wound healing," probably referring to his own work.

Maybe journals need to see e-mails that read 

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Martha Rosenberg is a columnist and cartoonist who frequently writes about the impact of the pharmaceutical, food and gun industries on public health. A former medical copywriter, her work has appeared in the Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, as well as on the BBC and in the original National Lampoon.