The Law of Unintended Consequences

21 05 2010
From Doc’s Rx Pad: I know this is a long post, but I believe it is an important one. It speaks to the core philosophy of Doc’s Grassroots Gourmet Program. It highlights that the “conventional wisdom” while often conforming is not always wise. Please read and pass it along, I am going to leave this one up all weekend so everyone has a chance to read it.

Along with Murphy’s Law, I believe the other universal truism is The Law of Unintended Consequences. The universe is always in a cause and effect mode. The glass falls off the table and breaks. Cause then effect, the glass never jumps from the floor and reassembles itself on the table. The universe never operates in an effect then cause fashion. As many of you know, I promote Doc’s Grassroots Gourmet style of food preparation and cooking. This means, among other things, using fresh ingredients and minimizing the processed additives where possible.


The Law of Unintended Consequences.

Whenever you alter something, no matter how slight, it has some consequence. Some consequences do not translate into any meaningful effects, homeostasis is maintained. Some cause major perturbations. But make no mistake, there is some effect. With our keen science we do our best to foresee what those effects will be and appropriately address them. That is where the law of unintended consequences comes in; there are things which occur to a system that neither anyone can foresee nor did anyone ever intended to happen.

For awhile now I have been promoting eating healthy not by necessarily skimping on the steak, but by choosing a different steak (and a reasonable portion). Beef from free range grass fed cattle is low in saturated fats and rich in omega -3 fatty acids and other goodies (see previous posts for the references). Well, here’s the data coming in to support our working hypothesis about choosing these products and including them in a tasty, enjoyable and healthy diet.

A recent meta-analysis from the Harvard School of Public Health published in Circulation this month suggests that the cardiovascular risk associated with red meats comes primarily from the highly processed and chemically treated varieties such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs and other processed lunch and deli meats. The non-processed meats examined were beef, lamb and pork (not poultry).

While both contain fat, cholesterol and saturated fat, the processed choices are much higher in salt, preservatives and additives. The analysis combined data from 20 different studies involving more than 1.2 million people worldwide.  The findings revealed that daily consumption of about two ounces of processed meat was associated with a 42% increased risk of heart disease and a 19% increased risk of diabetes. Conversely, a four-ounce daily serving of red meat from beef, hamburger, pork, lamb or game did not increase the risk of heart disease, nor did it significantly increase the risk of diabetes. The rates of smoking, exercise and other risk factors were similar between the two groups.

The study concluded people, especially those already at risk of heart problems or with high blood pressure, should consider reducing consumption of bacon, processed ham, hot dogs and other packaged meats that have a high salt and nitrate content. The heavily processed choices had four times the amount of sodium and 50% more nitrates than their unprocessed counterparts. I would add to that the processed versions also contain high levels of additional compounds and preservatives. This combination is what may have led to an unintended consequence in the effort to keep food preserved. The levels of saturated fat and cholesterol are roughly equivalent between the highly processed and unprocessed meats.

“ (There are) factors that have made all red meats potential culprits in raising the risk of cardiovascular disease….But when you try to separate processed from unprocessed meats, you get an entirely different picture.” said Renata Micha, a research fellow in the Harvard School of Public Health’s epidemiology department and a lead author of the study. Victoria Taylor, senior heart health dietician at the British Heart Foundation echoes our Grassroots Gourmet viewpoint: “If you like red meat, this can still be included as part of a balanced heart-healthy diet… aim to cook from scratch.”

A previous meta-analysis released in March involving 21 different studies found that intake of saturated fat wasn’t linked to a statistically-significant increased risk of heart disease, stroke or cardiovascular disease.

These studies do not establish a cause and effect relationship; it is correlative. They do, however, validate the universal truism held within The Law of Unintended Consequences. In our Grassroots Gourmet philosophy, we choose the path of least perturbation.

When you gets your meatses, I suggest you do the same.




5 responses

21 05 2010

i agree the more natural the food the better never good to over process things however the sad reality in a lot of cases poorer Americans can’t afford it I am so blessed to shop in Whole foods etc


21 05 2010

Agreed, it is a shame it costs more to eat naturally!

21 05 2010

Thank you for this post; personally I don’t care for hot dogs or bacon but know a lot of people who do! I wish they would read this.

21 05 2010

@Joumana: Thanks-please pass it along!

23 05 2010

You know I am on board!

A week in GA and FL without following this- no good wine either, we were glad to get back to our fresh eating lifestyle at home!

Chef E

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