So you are thinking about going on the Paleo Diet, are you? Well how much heart do you actually have, folks? And seriously, by “heart,” I mean how much of it do you plan to eat? Vice has recently re-interviewed a guy that only eats raw meat. He’s insane. I don’t mean that in a bad way, I’m not judging at all, but in terms of what our culture is used to, the images in the article are incredibly shocking to “digest.” His name is Derek Nance and he’s from Kentucky. He’s traveled the world consuming local raw meats. He began consuming raw meats due to a “mystery stomach illness” which seemed to be impossible to deal with until he turned to eating a raw meat diet. The interview discloses how Derek is doing now (hint, he has a girlfriend it seems!). We encourage you to check it out.
So wait, is eating raw meat good for us?
There is also what’s known as the oxidation of fat. When the fat of meat is exposed to oxygen, it oxidizes. This happens even if you don’t cook it, but, it happens at a much expedited rate when you do cook it. Some believe that oxidized fats are inflammatory and should be avoided. Remember, even if you eat lean meats, they still have fat in them.
In some circles, it is believed that charred meat is cancerous.
When meat—be it beef, pork, fish, or poultry—is cooked at high temperatures, it forms heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). According to the National Cancer Institute, HCAs and PCAs cause cancer in animal models (think: lab rats). So far it’s unclear if humans sprout cancer growths after exposure to HCAs and PHAs, but we aren’t volunteering for any trials to find out for sure.
Meat has long been associated with higher cancer risk, but many sources argue that correlation is not causation when it comes to the studies. A great many other factors, of course, exist, such as hormones / antibiotics found in the meat source and what diet the animal was subjected to while living its life.
But our common sense wisdom says that we cook meat to avoid bacteria and parasites that might do us severe harm. The CDC claims that meat is responsible for 22% of food-borne illnesses. And well, 29% of the deaths. That puts them behind leafy vegetables as the second most dangerous. But this claim, while valid, is wide ranging. It doesn’t dis-include pure, grass fed, organic meats. Any raw foodie is going to tell you that’s a huge difference maker, of course. In other words, maybe raw meat isn’t dangerous, but raw meat from poor sources is.
After this, we get into pretty much the basic premise of raw food eating in general: That’s how humans evolved. For some raw food advocates, cooking is a way of processing which relieves us of vital sources of vitamins and minerals while also putting us at risk for cancer, among other things. Raw, in their eyes, is always better, even when it comes to meat. But what if cooking HELPED humans evolve, rather than served as a detriment to their evolution. That’s exactly what one study from 2009 proposes.
This means that however sophisticated the non-thermal processing methods were, cooking would have conferred incremental energetic benefits. While much remains to be discovered, we conclude that the adoption of cooking would have led to an important rise in energy availability. For this reason, we predict that cooking had substantial evolutionary significance.
This isn’t to say that what Mr. Nance is doing isn’t helping him. He had an ailment which Doctors couldn’t resolve (we all most certainly understand that). He changed his diet and resolved it himself (boy, do we ever understand that). The key question is if it had to be raw meat, or if potentially some other variable exists. We all know that changing a diet is a complex matter. You leave out one item, you feel worse or better, you decide that item was the culprit. Then later you realize you also left out another item due to the complexity that is food and diet.
Many of us eat for various reason. Some are driven by animal ethics, while others are driven by cancer prevention. Some even eat for increased concentration or to help them have a baby. The list goes on. In the end and all things being equal, a diet, no matter how grotesque or shocking it may seem, is a pretty personal experience. This includes Mr. Nance and his vampire cocktail.