Overview of the Consumption of Red Meat

Dr. Jan McBarron
3 min readJul 19, 2019

Keeping up with differing opinions about the health benefits or risks of certain foods can be challenging. With thousands of studies being conducted every day on various dietary subjects, it can be difficult to come up with any one conclusion. In this vein, there has been much debate around the consumption of red meat; some have attributed it to the cause of heart disease, while others have championed its richness in vitamins, protein and minerals. To summarize the various viewpoints on the subject, we spoke to Dr. Jan McBarron (from Duke and The Doctor), a bariatric physician, doctor, and author, about whether red meat is as bad for you as everyone says it is.

Our Early Diet

It is important to remember that humans have been eating meat throughout the course of history. Studies suggest that eating meat and cooking food is a major part of what made us human, as protein rich food enabled the brains of our pre-human ancestors to grow dramatically over a period of a few million years. Dr. Jan McBarron of Duke and The Doctor explains that new studies demonstrate that it would have been biologically implausible for humans to evolve such a large brain without the consumption of animal products.

It is important to note; however, that meat today is not the same as the meat of our forefathers. Animals used to roam free, and ate grass, insects, or other foods natural to them. Most of the meat we currently consume is born and raised in a factory, fed grain-based feed and are given growth-promoting hormones and antibiotics.

Jan McBarron of Duke and the Doctor explains that there is a key differentiation to make when people argue about the health implications of red and processed meat, and that is primarily that many processed meats contain nitrate (bacon, hot dogs, sausage), which alone can have a significant impact on cancer risk. Numerous studies over the years have shown that over consumption of red meat is not beneficial for our overall health, as it has been linked to increased heart disease and diabetes. But the truth is, red meat also offers some incredible health benefits as well.

The Advantages

What are the benefits of red meat? Firstly, the heme iron in red meat is easily absorbed by the body — unlike in plants. Red meat is a major source of vitamin B12, which helps make DNA and keeps nerve and red blood cells healthy. Eating foods that contain naturally occurring B vitamins is important because it helps promote a healthy body. Red meat also contains niacin, a B vitamin that supports digestion, and riboflavin, another B vitamin that promotes healthy skin and eyes. It is also a source of zinc which helps build muscle mass, strengthens your immune system and helps promote a healthy brain.

Jan McBarron on Eating Red Meat

Overall, it is important to enjoy all things in moderation. Anytime you hear about a new study making claims about a particular food or lifestyle, carefully consider the parameters under which the study was conducted. How many participants were there? Did they include other factors, like what other foods the participants were eating? How did they arrive at the conclusion? All things considered; red meat is still on the ‘okay’ list provided you use a little restraint!



Dr. Jan McBarron

Dr. Jan McBarron of Duke and the Doctor is an award winning Bariatric Medical Doctor, author and popular public speaker.