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Iron, low blood supply

Are Rare Steaks Good For Your Heart?

By Dr. W. Gifford Jones

July 22, 2007

"One of these days you're going to push your luck too far", my wife often says to me. She's not complaining that I'm spending too much money on horse races. Or betting the farm on a gold mine in Zimbabwe. Rather, for years I've told waiters I want my steak rare. Is this risky or can it fight heart failure?

Friends often say to me, "We don't eat meat in our family anymore". But does this make sense? After all, humans have been enjoying meat since the caveman discovered it could keep him alive. And there are still sound reasons for not giving it up.

Today, iron is the nutrient most often lacking in North American diets. Young children, teenagers, pregnant women, nursing mothers and athletes are especially at risk. The recommended allowance for iron is 18 milligrams (mg) a day, yet the typical diet contains only six mg. And insufficient stores of iron in the body can cause fatigue.

Making steak a part of the diet helps to protect against a low blood supply. Meat is one of the prime sources of iron and is rich in "heme" iron. It's the type that's more easily absorbed by the body than "non-heme" iron.

I also eat steak because I've never enjoyed spinach. I'd have to ingest three cups of raw spinach to obtain the same amount of iron contained in a six-ounce sirloin steak. I can't think of an easier choice to make!

Meat is also a complete protein. This means it contains the nine essential amino acids that are needed for maintaining body tissues and keeping the immune system functioning. Our bodies are not capable of manufacturing these amino acids.

If you're concerned about calories, a six-ounce steak, trimmed of fat, has 6.0 grams of fat and provides only 366 calories. Compare this amount to roasted chicken with the skin that has 23 grams of fat. Or the 32 grams of fat in four tablespoons of peanut butter.

In addition, steak contains vitamins B-6, B-12, five of the B-complex vitamins, niacin, phosphorus and zinc. Few people ever think about the zinc in steak. But many people do not consume sufficient zinc required for reproduction, growth, night vision and the manufacture of hormones.

What about cholesterol in steaks? Some people explain this is why they're eating only fish and chicken. I don't suffer from "cholesterolphobia" as I think there are many more logical reasons for heart disease. But if I'm wrong, a six- ounce steak only contains 146 mg of cholesterol, the same amount as in roasted skinless chicken.

My favourite steak house isn't worried about my liking for rare steaks. Maybe I don't leave enough tip. But no well-informed waiter has yet said to me "You dummy, didn't you learn anything in medical school? Don't you know that ordering your steaks blue may cause toxoplasmosis? Go back and read your book on parasitology."

Toxoplasmosis is not a household name such as chicken-pox or measles. But about 40 percent of North Americans have had this condition at one time or another. Luckily most people who have carried this infection are unaware of it and need no treatment.

But how can a rare steak help the heart? Dr. Frederick Crane first isolated coenzyme Q10 (Co-Q10) from beef heart in 1957. And somewhere along the way his discovery escaped the radar signal that meat is one of the primary sources of Co-Q10. And that ordering steak well done, not only tastes like eating leather, but also destroys Co-Q10.

Co-Q10 is needed to produce the body's fundamental unit of energy, ATP, the gas that provides energy for the heart. And studies show that as we age the body's ability to extract Co-Q10 from food decreases.

Today millions of people are also taking cholesterol-lowering drugs. Studies show that these drugs can decrease the level of Co-Q10 by as much as 40 percent. This is why some authorities believe this may be setting the stage for an increasing number of people suffering from congestive heart failure in the future.

So, waiter, I'd prefer my steak rare. Please underline the rare and make sure it "moos" just once.

Medical Archives after 2008
Medical Archives before 2008

W. Gifford-Jones M.D is the pen name of Dr. Ken Walker graduate of Harvard. Dr. Walker's website is: Docgiff.com

My book, “90 + How I Got There” can be obtained by sending $19.95 to:

Giff Holdings, 525 Balliol St, Unit # 6,Toronto, Ontario, M4S 1E1

Pre-2008 articles by Gifford Jones