|Photo by sxld|
I quit pork long before I started paleo – in fact, I haven’t intentionally consumed any pork in almost 10 years. This may shock you, since it seems that most paleo adherents worship pork, especially bacon and pork belly. It’s not one of those foods that I’m adamantly against, like wheat. So if some snuck into my food somewhere, I wouldn’t freak out. Nor have I ever previously recommended others to avoid it – I’ve pretty much stayed quiet on the topic. But I certainly have gone out of my way to avoid it.
Why? I’ve come across enough research and anecdotes over time, to have a sort of gut feeling to steer clear of it. Even more so, since I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything nutrition wise by keeping it out of my diet, as I eat plenty of other great meats and fats.
Needless to say, I was excited to see Paul Jaminet’s series, The Trouble With Pork (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). In these very interesting blog posts, Paul explains that there is a strong association between pork and liver cirrhosis, liver cancer, and MS. He covers a few possible contributing factors, ending with the one he finds to be the most probable culprit.
There is no arguing pork’s high Omega 6 content. However, the polyunsaturated fat levels can be decreased significantly depending on what the pigs are fed. So if you are going to eat pork, it’s especially important to source some naturally raised pigs that are fed a healthy diet.
Although high Omega 6 may be a contributing factor to those diseases, Paul doesn’t believe that it’s the main factor, as the consumption of Omega 6 heavy vegetable oils is not correlated with the same diseases as pork consumption.
Processed Meat Toxins
Another reason why some pork is unhealthy is due to all the processed meat toxins in processed pork products like smoked ham, bacon, and sausages. However, interestingly enough, processed pork actually had lower hazard ratios than fresh pork.
Pathogens: Hepatitis E
Pigs are very biologically similar to humans, which means that the same pathogens that affect pigs can and do affect us. The one that most commonly spreads from pigs to humans is Hepatitis E. It is the most likely pathogen in the case of the liver diseases. Paul was not able to find a pathogen linking to MS, but believes it is likely to be a virus.
Hepatitis E can be spread via contact with pigs, or eating pork that isn’t cooked well enough. Some parts of pork are more likely to be contaminated than others, like the liver, blood, and intestinal tract. Sausages often contain all these parts, so they’re best avoided. As for other cuts, Paul recommends rinsing them well and then cooking them thoroughly to a temperature of at least 70 C. Hepatitis E is not destroyed by casual cooking, smoking, or curing – it has to be destroyed by heat. The safest cuts of pork to eat are those with low viral titers such as pork ribs or pork belly (including bacon), as long as they are well cooked.
Other Strikes Against Pork
Here are some other sources I’ve come across that discuss the negative effects of pork:
“Dr. Carey Reams discovered the reason why the Bible forbids several foods, like pork. When these foods are eaten, the energy in the foods is given off way too fast. The body can’t handle this huge amount of energy in such short time and something comparable with running your car on kerosene happens: The pistons and valves all burn. In the body this results in huge losses of mineral energy, i.e. it causes the body to dump large amounts of essential minerals, among which calcium.
When a person monitors his RBTI figures daily, he/she will see immediate negative effects on his/her health when these foods are eaten.”
As an aside, sometimes people zone out when religion is thrown into the mix – but isn’t it puzzling that pork is so often forbidden? Could the restriction be ancient wisdom, passed on to future generations via religion?
“The results suggest that unmarinated cooked pastured pork may be unique in producing these coagulation effects on the blood, which also appeared quite rapidly, in less than ten minutes after blood draw, and did not clear up during an hour of observing the blood under the microscope.”
“On videotape, Dr. Olympio Pinto has recorded changes occurring in red blood cells caused by eating pork, smoking cigarettes, drinking caffeine, exposure to other toxic chemicals and heavy metals, or consuming any number of other potentially health-destructive substances. Just one hour after eating pork, for instance, more than half of the red blood cells began a transformation called “ghosting”. Ghosts are red cells that have lost their hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is not only an oxygen-carrier but is also responsible for the red pigmentation of the blood. This could explain the sleepy feeling some people get after eating certain kinds of foods to which the body is particularly sensitive. “
So, for me, pork continues to not be worth the headache. Every couple of years I’ll do a little more digging, only to find more reasons to support my uncertainty. If you do choose to eat pork, it’s probably safest to source healthy, well-fed pigs and to stick to well-cooked ribs, bacon and pork belly.
Do you think pork is unhealthy? Why or why not?