Meat, Veggies, Cholesterol, Heart Disease and Stroke

One of the pillars of a healthy lifestyle is diet. Much of the nutritional advice I give basically boils down to the mind-blowingly original idea of not eating crap. The rest of it can be summed up in the question, “Would your grandmother recognize it as food?” because there is an expert opinion on pretty much any side of the debate.

Keeping that in mind, I offer you the following.

One of the great themes of dietary advice today is, “Meat is bad, red meat is worse,” with the corollary being that you need to go vegetarian. If you eat any animal based protein, it must be fish, because fish is healthy, and if fish is healthy, more fish must be better.


A study recently published in the British Medical Journal sheds a little light on the question. Using a study group of 48 188 participants, broken into three dietary groups; meat eaters, fish but not meat eaters and vegetarians (including vegans), none of whom had a medical history of heart disease, cardiovascular diseae or stroke, the participants were studied for stroke, heart disease and cardiovascular disease.

The basic conclusions were that fish eaters/vegetarians had a:

  • – 13% lower rate of heart disease
  • – 20% higher rate of stroke

The study noted that vegetarians had lower LDL (bad cholesterol) levels than the meat eaters, which is good. They also had lower levels of vitamin B12, certain amino acids, vitamin D and other nutrients. The missing nutrients are believed be associated with the increased risk and incidence of stroke, which is bad.

So, there you have it. Eat meat, raise your risk of heart disease. Go vegetarian, raise your risk of stroke. You’re stuck in a catch 22.

But waitaminute, no you’re not.

High LDL is bad. Like, really bad. But is going vegetarian the only way to lower your bad cholesterol? No, it’s not. Increased fiber, fruits and vegetables help. Exercise helps. So, you can eat meat and reduce the risk of heart disease.

As for being nutrient deficient, well, I guess you vegetarians are just going to have to start eating meat, right? Well, no. There are non-meat based foods high in vitamin B-12 and vitamin D. Heck, you could go stand in the sun for your vitamin D.

I think the key to all of this is, first, as I said above, there’s an expert for everything. Second, there’s a study to prove everything. Third, something is going to get you.

Try to eat right, raise your risk of stroke. Try to eat more traditionally, raise your risk of heart disease. So what to do?

Learn. See the gaps. I pointed out a couple above. I’m a meat eater, so I need to keep an eye on my LDL. If you’re a vegetarian, you need to keep an eye on some of your micro nutrients.

And above all, don’t stress it, because stress is a whole nother level of unhealthy.