As the world of holistic health and dietary advice has continued to evolve, one major question has risen to the forefront of the minds of millions: Is meat necessary for ideal health, and does it really lead to health risks and deleterious effects on the body even if it’s sourced from healthy animals raised on pristine natural pastures and organic foods?
According to Chris Kresser, a 15-year natural health practitioner, researcher and Paleo advocate, meat and animal products are far from the problem.
Switching back to animal-based foods practically saved his life and helped him thrive after years of eating only plants, he says, a message he shared on the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast in a lengthy, science-heavy debate that has been making waves across the Web and social media since its debut last week.
Kresser’s opponent Dr. Joel Kahn, a renowned cardiologist and author known as “America’s Healthy Holistic Heart Doc,” brought perhaps even more conviction to the table as he took to the airwaves to warn Rogan’s listeners about the dangers of too much animal-based cholesterol as it relates to heart disease.
As you may have imagined, the guests weren’t able to come to a consensus on the meat issue.
But the debate that unfolded (which can be seen in the video below) was one for the ages — and one that finally enabled the two influential health experts to find common ground on one important issue that could save the health, and livelihood, of millions of people.
Vegan Cardiologist, Paleo Expert Go the Distance in 4-Hour Joe Rogan Podcast Battle
If you didn’t get a chance to check out the podcast yet, you’re missing out: this was perhaps the most comprehensive debate on the topic of vegan vs. Paleo the world of holistic health has ever seen.
If you don’t have time to listen to or watch the whole thing, the website Podcastnotes.org has a detailed breakdown of Kresser and Kahn’s most important points, including:
The B12 Question and B12 Deficiencies in Vegans
One of Kresser’s biggest reasons for advocating a “Paleo” diet based on a large amount of vegetables, gluten-free and sugar-free eating and adequate amounts of animal-based foods and proteins, is because of the nutrient density of the latter category of foods, which vegan diets eschew.
According to Kresser, people who eat animal-based whole foods are far less likely to be B12 deficient. He cited a statistic that just 11% of “average” omnivores are depleted, in stark contrast to 77% of vegetarians and 92% of vegans.
He added that people who are deficient may need up to or perhaps even more than 200% of the recommended daily value in order to catch up to the deficiencies their bodies have been dealing with over the years.
“It begs the question of whether we should be following a diet that can’t meet our essential nutrient needs, that leads to deficiencies of many other nutrients much more common than an omnivorous diet,” he said.
The Saturated Fat/Heart Disease Conundrum
Dr. Kahn has seen inside over 15,000 hearts during his surgical career, and made it a point to note that he’s “never scooped sugar” out of a clogged artery. But he’s obviously seen plenty of them clogged with cholesterol, a dietary increase which is one of the most controversial parts aspects of eating Paleo.
Kahn mentioned that 21 international health societies’ statements (including the American Heart Association, World Health Organization and similar major bodies) suggest a limited saturated fat intake, while the Institute of Medicine advises people to eat as little saturated fat as possible.
“When you add saturated fat, cholesterol in the blood sky rockets, on average,” he said citing a 1997 study by Robert Clarke and his colleagues among several others.
“Why? – Basic science. When you eat foods rich in saturated fat (meat, cheese, eggs, etc.), cholesterol receptors on the liver go down (these move cholesterol from the blood to the liver to be metabolized), so cholesterol stays in the blood and builds plaques,” Kahn said, becoming visibly frustrated at one point during the debate (watch below) and warning the audience to avoid cholesterol so that he wouldn’t have to put a stent in their hearts.
“To negate all of this, is to throw out every major health agency in the world’s recommendation – that’s 100 years of cholesterol research,” he said, adding that populations who live to be over 100 typically don’t eat much saturated fat.
Kresser continually challenged these assertions with more recent studies and meta analyses, but Dr. Kahn mostly did not acknowledge them directly, stating that he would rather focus on what he deemed to be the most up-to-date long term studies on the matter.
The Hidden Truth About Saturated Fat in the U.S. Diet
While saturated fat from foods like meat, eggs and cheese are demonized, Kresser doesn’t feel as though their mostly unhealthy reputation has been warranted.
The top sources of saturated fat in the American diet according Chris mentions in the podcast are:
-33% from pizza, desserts, candy, burritos, tacos, tortillas and pizza
-24.% unaccounted for but most likely comes from processed foods
-13% from chicken or mixed chicken dishes, and eggs or mixed egg dishes
-10% from sausage, hot dogs, bacon, ribs and burgers
In other words, the vast majority of saturated fat Americans are eating comes from junk, Kresser says.
“So even if you see an increase in harm associated with saturated fat consumption – it’s tough to say if that same thing would be true for someone on a Paleo diet,” he said.
“We have no research to show that saturated fat, in that context, is harmful,” he added, while also referencing spiked insulin levels from eating the above foods which causes saturated fat to be stored more readily.
Dr. Kahn Sounds Off on Heart Disease and Cholesterol Levels
What the Experts Finally Agreed Upon
While Kahn and Kresser may never see eye-to-eye on these topics, there’s one important area where they were able to find common ground: the Standard American Diet high in processed food, sugar and carbs is out-of-control, and it is inflicting serious harm, damage and death on people from childhood through adulthood.
The debate has also sparked emotionally charged reactions from across social media, with many vegan commenters on YouTube stating that Dr. Kahn was treated unfairly by host Rogan because of his alleged bias for the meat industry (Rogan partners with ButcherBox and other meat producing companies).
Do you think think that these commenters were onto something, or was Rogan simply challenging Kahn to back up his statements and to answer Kresser’s points more directly?
Check out the full interview and let us know what you think in the comments section below: