A Rare Steak a Day Keeps the Cardiologist Away

Red meat has been maligned for decades as an artery-clogging source of cholesterol and saturated fat. Yet a rare-cooked slab of quality red meat may just be your best defense against heart disease.

One of the main casualties of what we might call the Public Health-Industrial Complex's war on cholesterol has been a molecule called "coenzyme Q10" (CoQ10). Among its many benefits and functions, coenzyme Q10 is a powerful protector of the heart and blood vessels. CoQ10 is found primarily in red meats, especially organ meats like liver and heart, and is heat-sensitive, destroyed by overcooking. The anti-cholesterol campaign of the government and its associated medical cartels has assaulted the population's CoQ10 status first through dietary recommendations, and now through the expanding use of CoQ10-lowering drugs, more popularly called "cholesterol-lowering" statins.

Red Meat a Victim of Government Guidelines

In February of 1977, the world's model democracy proved it could maintain the guise of freedom while expanding its totalitarianism to new levels: the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs released the "Dietary Goals for the United States." From this founding document, limiting saturated animal fats and cholesterol-rich foods became a permanent part of government dietary guidelines, casting shame upon diets rich in nutritious red meats, organ meats, and egg yolks.

In 1990, the role of free, democratic government in dictating the contents of Americans' dinner plates became enshrined in law. The passage of Title III of the National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act of 1990 (7 U.S.C. 5341) required that the Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services jointly publish a report entitled "Dietary Guidelines for Americans" every five years. The Act made the report official Federal policy, and the friendly, ubiquitous Food Guide Pyramid would present this "official policy" on the side of cereal boxes, to be stared at over breakfast by children everywhere, preparing to receive more benevolent Federal advice about their eating habits at public school.

The same year, the Third Edition of this, now mandatory, publication was released. It explicitly discouraged the consumption of egg yolks and organ meats. This and subsequent publications wouldn't explicitly discourage the consumption of red meat, but that was the natural and logical interpretation of its disparagement of saturated fat.

The Fifth Edition, released in 2000, provided a convenient table of saturated fat content in foods, in both standard and recommended low-fat form, where one could easily see that even the recommended low-fat version of red meat contained twice as much saturated fat as its nearest competitoru2014frozen yogurt.

Dispensers of health advice everywhere have depended on these authoritative guidelines and translated them as recommendations to avoid red meat if you care about your heart-health. Health-conscious Americans have opted for skinless (and tasteless) chicken and turkey, while vegetarians have proclaimed their vindication.

It went under the public radar that red meat happened to be the primary source of one of the most important nutrients to the heart in existence – coenzyme Q10.

The Wonders of Coenzyme Q10

The functions of coenzyme Q10 range from energy-production to anti-oxidant activity. Coenzyme Q10 acts as an anti-oxidant itself (meaning it protects against free radical damageu2014damage induced by unpaired electrons that destroy the body's tissues), and is also necessary for the proper anti-oxidant function of vitamin E. CoQ10 is an essential component of the mitochondria (the "powerhouse of the cell"), where it is involved in the production of ATP, the body's fundamental unit of energy, from fats and carbohydrates, and appears to regulate the pH of cellular compartments called "lysosomes" where digestion of various materials takes place.

The administration of coenzyme Q10 has been shown in controlled studies to improve congestive heart failure, and animal experiments have shown it to reduce damage to the heart done by heart attacks and open-heart surgery. Evidence also shows that it may be a powerful treatment for lowering high blood pressure.

Dr. Al Sears, MD, is the Director of the south Florida Center for Health and Wellness, where he's overseen the treatment of over 15,000 patients whom he has helped successfully reverse heart disease. His book, The Doctor's Heart Cure (read my review), devotes an entire chapter to the importance of CoQ10 to the heart.

Dr. Sears has found that over half of his patients have been able to successfully wean themselves off from their blood pressure medications, under medical supervision, by supplementing with coenzyme Q10.

One woman came into his office on a statin drug and two blood pressure drugs, suffering from constant fatigue and increasing memory loss. Since statins interfere with CoQ10 synthesis, and have been associated with fatigue and memory loss, Dr. Sears had her CoQ10 levels tested, and she was found to have lower levels of this nutrient than 95% of the population. Supplementing daily with 200 mg of coenzyme Q10 over several months allowed her to dump her blood pressure meds, feel "energized," and recover her memory. Her cardiologist met the good news with an angry outburst, throwing her bottle of CoQ10 in the trash!

Dr. Sears has found that patients who come to his center with heart disease, or various risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or low HDL, tend to be deficient in coenzyme Q10. He finds that supplementing with CoQ10 makes a dramatic difference in helping these patients to recover their energy and cardiovascular health.

Dr. Sears also cites studies showing that supplementing with CoQ10 can lower the death rate of congestive heart failure survivors by up to 59%, can decrease the frequency of angina pectoris attacks by 53%, and can dramatically improve recovery from heart surgery.

Eat Red Meat for CoQ10, And Eat it Rare

Coenzyme Q10 is found in the highest amounts in red meat. Dr. Frederick Crane first isolated the compound from beef heart in 1957. Beef heart and liver are believed to be the richest sources of CoQ10.

The USDA's food composition database has not yet been updated to include coenzyme Q10, but this very limited table from the Linus Pauling Institute shows beef to have almost twice as much coenzyme Q10 as chicken meat. While some fish have levels approaching the level of beef muscle meat, others have much lower levels than beef. Not shown in this table is the much higher level of CoQ10 in the organ meats of beef, which have been an even more direct target of government guidelines.

According to The Doctor's Heart Cure, the organ meats of grass-fed ruminants (red meat animals) have up to 10 times more coenzyme Q10 than the organ meats of grain-fed animals. Grass-fed meat is hard to find nowadays, in large part because, as discussed in "Why the State Hates Cholesterol," most agricultural subsidies go to large producers of grain, which drives down the cost of grain for livestock farmers, distorting the market and making it more economical to feed animals grain than grass.

Dr. Sears has found that, among the hundreds of patients whose coenzyme Q10 levels he has measured, those avoiding red meat tend to have very low levels of CoQ10, and strict vegans have extremely low levels of CoQ10. He recommends people in either category supplement with this nutrient.

Despite the common recommendations to cook meat "thoroughly," coenzyme Q10 is heat-sensitive, and is destroyed progressively as meat is cooked. A well-done steak will have dramatically less CoQ10 than a rare steak. To obtain maximal CoQ10 benefit, meat should be eaten as rare as is tolerable to the diner.

However, many who dine upon red meat may run into trouble with state laws while trying to maintain their heart health. In my home state of Massachusetts, for example, it has been illegal since the 1990s for a restaurant to serve a hamburger cooked less than medium. Out of legal anxiety, most restaurants have gone overboard, and many will serve you a well-done burger even if you request one cooked to medium.

The New Assault of Government Guidelines: Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs

The Public Health-Industrial Complex reached a new level of expansion when the most recent and most successful round of cholesterol-lowering drugsu2014the statins, such as Lipitor, Mevacor, Zocor, Lescol, and Pravacholu2014were developed from a compound found in a fungus, red yeast rice, that inhibits the synthesis of cholesterol.

Actually, "cholesterol-lowering drug" is a misnomer. Statins do not act directly on cholesterol synthesis, but inhibit the synthesis of a compound called "mevalonate." As you can see by viewing this flow chart, mevalonate is the precursor of an entire class of compounds called "isoprenes."

Isoprenes are chains of a recurring subunit of varying lengths. One isoprene chain is the precursor to cholesterol. A different isoprene chain makes up part of the coenzyme Q10 molecule! Thus, so-called "cholesterol-lowering" statins act directly to inhibit the synthesis of CoQ10 every bit as much as they act to lower cholesterol levels. This is not a "side effect," but a universal and inherent action of the drugs.

One study that Dr. Sears cites found that statins can lower coenzyme Q10 levels by 40%! It would thus be dishonest to refer to statins as "cholesterol-lowering" without also referring to them as "coenzyme Q10-lowering."

Even though coenzyme Q10 has had dramatic success in lowering blood pressure, reversing congestive heart failure, and improving other measures of heart health, government recommendations on CoQ10 have been non-existent. The problem with CoQ10 is that it happens to be a natural substance that isn't patentable, and therefore has little profit value to pharmaceutical giants. It is therefore unsurprising that the government half of the Public Health-Industrial Complex has been silent on the issue.

But statins are profitable. Very profitable. It should therefore come as no surprise that government and its medical minions have had a field day recommending their use.

When the most recent government guidelines were released in 2001, the NIH and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute released a press release expressing their intention for the guidelines to help nearly triple the number of Americans taking statins from 13 million to 36 million. Issue #001 of my free newsletter (you can subscribe here) discussed this phenomenon, referencing an article by Paul Rosch, M.D., that described the surreptitious passage of these guidelines that seemed to mirror the middle-of-the-night passage of the PATRIOT Act. The guidelines were illegally published in the Journal of the American Medical Association without being published in the Federal Register, the meetings were closed and minutes were not kept, public opinion was not solicited, and the scientific evidence, if existent, was unavailable for public review.

In the same newsletter, I reported on a recent Norwegian study published in the British Medical Journal that found European guidelines to be classifying nearly the entire male population of Norway as patients and candidates for cholesterol-lowering drugs.

The Third Joint Task Force of European and Other Societies on Cardiovascular Disease Prevention in Clinical Practice in 2003 set guidelines for various levels of heart disease risk. The maximum level, "high-risk," indicated a 5% chance of contracting heart disease in the next 10 years. Amazingly, only 8.5% of women and no men over the age of 40 were considered "low-risk," while 22.5% of women and a full 85.9% of men were considered "high-risk," requiring "maximal clinical attention with no further assessment of risk." A previous study by the same authors found that 75% of all Norwegians over the age of 20 – the age of 20 –were classified as requiring counseling about their cholesterol and blood pressure levels.

Where are all these 20-year-olds and 40-year-olds who are dropping dead left and right of heart disease? They aren't there. The fine print reveals a little trick that the Task Force used to expand the definition of "high-risk:" for the "younger" age groups, the definition of "high-risk" would be expanded from a 10-year outlook to a 60-year outlook. So a 20-year-old's estimation of risk is based on his likelihood to contract heart disease by the time he is 80, and a 40-year-old's risk is based on his likelihood to encounter heart disease by the time he is 100!

Thus, an entire healthy population is made candidate for cholesterol-lowering drugs. Can we look forward to the day when children stare at a Food Pyramid on their cereal box that contains a new bottom layer added under 6-11 servings of grains and starches that recommends 10-15 servings of cholesterol-lowering drugs?

Coenzyme Q10: Casualty of the War on Cholesterol

It is the height of irony that the war that has been waged against cholesterol over the last half-century by the Public Health-Industrial Complex has inadvertently waged war against one of the most potent heart-protecting nutrients, which shows promise of therapeutic value for heart disease. It was not enough for government to endorse dietary deprivation of red meat and organ meats, the primary sources of this nutrient, but the new front lines of the war on cholesterol have caused the attrition of even the body's own synthesis of this heart-protective compound.

A nice, juicy, rare-cooked slab of red meat each day may just keep the cardiologist away. And if he's of the pill-pushing variety, keep him away you must, because he'll probably come bearing statins. And you know what they said in public school about drug dealers.

August 23, 2005