A landmark study shows that it is the bacterial endotoxins in animal products that cause metabolic inflammation. Furthermore, the presence of saturated animal fat exacerbates the endotoxemic surge of inflammation.
For well over a decade it’s been known that within a few hours of consuming a single meal of animal meat, dairy or eggs that an inflammatory reaction inside our body is triggered. This results in a stiffening of our arteries. After approximately five or six hours, the inflammation starts to cool down—but then what happens? Lunchtime! And the whole process repeats.
In this routine, we may be stuck in a chronic low-grade inflammation danger zone for most of our lives. This can set us up for inflammatory diseases such as obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers, one meal at a time.
Until only a couple of years ago, the thinking behind the reason that a meal of animal products caused inflammation was because animal foods have saturated fat, and that it caused the breakdown of our intestinal barrier. This intestinal breakdown then allowed for small quantities of bacterial endotoxin to leak from our gut into our bloodstream. Thus, triggering an inflammatory reaction and labelling leaky gut syndrome to blame.
However, the leaky gut theory is incorrect. It was only recently that researchers realised this didn’t make any sense.
INFLAMMATION STUDY DISCOVERS THE TRUE CULPRIT
Studies show that the rise of metabolic inflammation starts within just a few hours of ingestion and yet, endotoxins do not live in our small intestines. Endotoxins live in our large intestines which are about six meters further down where it could take up to eight hours for food to get down there.
Where else could bacterial endotoxins be coming from? Researchers were asking the wrong question—the endotoxins are coming from the food itself.
This landmark study (which had no conflicts of interest) aimed to determine whether common foodstuffs may contain substantial quantities of endotoxin. Researchers prepared forty extracts from twenty-seven foodstuffs common to the Western diet. They then measured the capacity of each to induce the secretion of inflammatory signals from human white blood cells.
What they found was whopping doses of endotoxin equivalents in some pork, poultry, dairy and chocolate products.
Chocolate? Don’t panic—while the first step in chocolate making is bacterial fermentation of the beans, thankfully the phytonutrients outweigh the effect of the bacteria and decrease inflammation overall. The same cannot be said for animal products.
According to statistics from the World Health Organization, approximately 12.9 million people worldwide died from some form of cardiovascular disease in 2004, while each year, the World Cancer Research Fund estimates that some 8 million people died from cancer.
CAN ENDOTOXINS BE COOKED OUT?
In short, no. While people cook some animal products so that any unwanted parasites or pathogenic bacteria that can be transmitted to humans by eating uncooked or poorly cooked meat are killed off, the endotoxins remain.
The bacteria can be dead, the bacteria can be cooked, but their endotoxins are still there. Bacterial endotoxins survive both cooking and our bodies’ best attempts at acid and enzyme digestion.
Furthermore, certain commonly consumed foodstuffs can contain a high bacterial load before cooking, such as fresh hamburger meat, which has often been shown to contain approximately one hundred million bacteria per quarter pounder. It appears that the high bacteria load in raw or cooked animal foods that triggers an endotoxemic surge of inflammation is exacerbated by the presence of saturated animal fat.
Trillions of dollars and overburdened global health care systems struggle to put a dint in combating inflammatory diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers, when one substantial culprit is clear. Bacterial endotoxins in animal products cause metabolic inflammation and the progression of disease—where as plant based diets have anti-inflammatory effects and a wealth of other nutritional benefits.