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Testosterone - Beef and Eggs

Beef and eggs.  Can you find two more hated foods?  I doubt it.  The nutritional media establishment has loved to hate these two foods for so long now that people have become scared to even touch them much less eat them.  We hear over and over messages like "if the saturated fat and cholesterol don't kill you, then the salmonella or e. coli will." 

How much truth is there in all of this? Unfortunately, there's no quick, pat answer. Beef and Eggs are actually like a of relatives: a little heaven, a little hell and a whole lot of contradiction.

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Eggs

Let's start with the egg. Eggs are famous, or infamous perhaps, for their cholesterol content.  One egg yolk, after all, has about 200-250 mg of cholesterol.  (Egg whites, in contrast, have almost none.)  One would think that all this cholesterol would dramatically raise cholesterol levels, right?  As it turns out, the cholesterol is one egg yolk does not bump up your cholesterol as much as you might think.

 This was re-re-verified in one recent study where researchs fed subjects three eggs for three weeks.  Their cholesterol and LDL went through the roof, right?  No! Both increased only a marginal amount. The reason?  Your body manufacturers the lion's share of its cholesterol:  diet is a minor contributor.

Researchers also recently found that eggs do something strange and marvelous:  they substantially raise HDL (at least in overweight men on a calorie restricted diet). [11]  This study found that neither bad cholesterol nor triglycerides, the bad cholesterols, were increased significantly at all, while HDL, the good cholesterol, was increased by almost 50%!  In other words, there is a good chance, although this has not been studies either way, that a whole egg a day is actually heart healthy.

That said, we should remember that the healthiest cultures on planet earth almost all have cholesterol around 150 and eggs yolks will raise your cholesterol somewhat, so you don't want to go crazy. 

And one interesting discovery  certain peptides in eggs seem to act as powerful ACE inhibitors and should lower blood pressure. [7]  This has yet to be verified in a live study however.

However, there is one big reason I don't consume egg yolks:  arachidonic acid (AA).  Especially if you don't get enough omega-3's, arachidonic acid increases Inflammation throughout the body. Of course, inflammation is a cause of heart disease, cancer, erectile dysfunction, Alzheimers, arthritis and on and on.  So this is not good, because one egg yolk has around 390 mg of AA, which is a high amount for a food source. [12]

So, while it's true that egg yolks don't raise cholesterol that much, the small boost in cholesterol coupled with the big boost in inflammation may be the kiss of death for your arteries.  One recent study recently found that consuming egg yolks raised carotid artery thickness, a measure of arterial plaque buildup (arteriosclerosis), as much as smoking! [13] In other words, eating egg yolks may very well be as bad for you as smoking. (Some would argue that if you get plenty of omega-3's, you may be okay. I can't thik of a good reason to take the chance.)

Some would argue that eggs are a fantastic source of choline and lutein, two very important nutrients in food.  However, the lutein content in eggs is relatively low and, of course, one can easily get choline in supplement form. 

CAUTION:  Eggs are known for all too frequently carrying salmonella leading the FDA to action that included more stringent rules in mid 2009 for egg laying facilities, storage and transportation.  The FDA instituted these rules based on their estimates that over 140,000 people per year were infected from salmonella. [8] Cook your eggs all the way through and cooked eggs or egg dishes should be reheated to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit or 74 degrees Celcius. [9]

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Beef

Beef should be a favorite of testosterone lovers everywhere, right? It has many testosterone boosting qualities: ample zinc and a good saturated to polyunsaturate fat ratio for starters. Besides all that, beef is incredibly rich in B12, iron, selenium, phosphorous and riboflavin. It's also one of the meats lowest in inflammatory messengers.  One 2007 Australian study veryified this by measuring C-reactive protein (and free radical damage) from replacing carbohydrate with lean, red meat. They concluded "our results suggest that partial replacement of dietary carbohydrate with protein from lean red meat does not elevate oxidative stress or inflammation". [10]

Beef is also the core staple, which I covered in a link called the Two F Words, of the Masai tribe, one of the most heart-healthy cultures on planet earth. So beef has a lot of things going for it.

So then why the bad press? Well, there are four fundamental allegations:

  1. North American beef is loaded with steroids causing a wide variety of health disorders including cancer.
  2. Beef, when fried or BBQ’d at high temperatures, yields unhealthy quanitites of carcinogens.
  3. Cattle in Western cultures is almost entirely raised on grain feeds such as corn giving its tissue a very unhealthy ratio of omega 6's to omega 3's. Furthermore, because of the diet and sedentary nature of the animals, modern cattle usually have a much higher content of fat and saturated fat. Saturated fat has been shown in studies to decrease endothelial function.
  4. Modern cattle has a much higher fat content than similar wild game.

We’ll have to tackle each of these separately starting with the hormone allegation. Yes, hormones are implanted in commercial North American beef. (You will have to research your own country if you’re from elsewhere around the globe.) There are six approved steroids, three synthetic and three “natural”. All six are essentially testosterone or estrogen.

Sounds scary, right? Well, it would be except that the levels of hormones that make it into a serving of beef is miniscule. There is a much greater quantity of estrogen in eggs and cabbage, for example, than in beef. Furthermore, the amount of estrogen in 6 oz. of beef, 3.8 ng, is dwarfed by the total amount of estrogen the tyical male (human) will produce in a day, 100,000 ng. So the hormone argument is  weak in my opinion.

However, the carcinogen argument is not so easily explained away. This argument stems from the fact that beef, when grilled at high temperatures, produces carcinogens such as heterocyclic amines (HCA’s) and benzopyrene. For example, Prevention magazine (3/06, p. 67) reported that one study showed that those who ate the most HCA’s and benzopyrene had a 2.4 times increase in their level of pancreatic cancer risk. Other studies have also shown red meat and/or HCA’s strongly associated with increased prostate cancer.

Animal studies have shown additional problems: HCA’s mutate prostate DNA in rodents for example. And researchers have also noted that HCA’s cause DNA mutation in the colon. So beware:  the longer (or hotter) that you cook beef, the more HCA’s and other carcinogens that you get.

So it’s obvious that HCA’s lead to prostate cancer, right? Well, yes and no. In fairness, some studies have shown the opposite, that is that HCA’s do NOT lead to prostate cancer. However, the general consensus among the nutritional community is considerable caution when the discussion of beef cooked at high temperatures.

I should also mention that one recent study showed that many common marinades will very significantly lower the amount of HCA's (between 57 and 88 percent) produced when the beef was grilled at high temperatures. [4]  The most successful marinades were composed of spices from the mint family such as basil, thyme, mint, rosemary, savory, sage, oregano and marjoram. These herbs are all rich in three key antioxidant compounds – carnosic acid, carnosol and rosmarinic acid - that appear to be behind the inhibition of heterocyclic amines on the surface of the meat.  Of course, it should be noted, that this still left a significant amount of HCA's on the meat.  Even an 88 percent reduction could leave someone with an unnecessarily high exposure to prostate and pancreatic cancers over a decade or two of eating cooked up marinaded meats.

The omega-6 and omega-3 argument is even more problematic.  Virtually all of today's beef is not range fed but rather grain fed.  Grains are high in omega-6's which leads to fatty tissue marbled with omega-6's in our beef supply.  (Range fed animals, which feed off natural grasses, will have a much more healthy quantity of omega-3's in their tissues.) What is the concern here?  Well, researchers at Wake Forest found that prostate cancer (in mice) was higher than normal with an omega-6 diet and lower than normal with an omega-3 based diet.  In other words, omega-6's appear to promote prostate cancer and omega-3's inhibit prostate cancer. [5]

Finally, modern cows are often sedentary and bred and fed to be extremely "fatty".  Modern livestock is generally ridiculously high in fat content. For example, muscle tissue on a buffalo is about 3% fat.  But a modern, domesticated cow has been bred to be between 25-35% fat. Similarly, a wild pig is 1-3% fat, while a domestic pig is an astronomical 38-46% fat.

Unfortunately, the extremely fatty tissues of modern beef are going to be loaded with saturated fat.  Saturated fat will do a nice job of raising your testosterone, but unfortunately it's brutal on the arteries.  It literally creates a temporarly hardening or stiffening of the arteries.  This is the opposite of what you want for good erections.  Good erections come from veins and vessels that can expand easily and let blood flow into the penis.  That's also critical for protection against heart attacks and high blood pressure as well.

The bottom line is that saturated fat is associated with decreased endothelial function. After a large saturated fat meal, endothelial function can be decreased by as much as half. This is NOT what the typical middle aged guy needs in his life. I discuss the whole saturated fat issue in more detail here.

So, if you bake a lean, range-fed piece of beef that was cooked slowly, then you might be in good shape. It would tend to be low in saturated fat, high in omega-3's and would probably even yield a small testosterone boost.  But this is all speculation and desire:  modern man does not have access to this kind of meat and so a much safer way to go is the Ornish Diet or Mediterranean Diet.  

So, unfortunately, what should be one of nature's healthiest and most testosterone-boosting foods has been morphed by modern livestock businesses into a food that places us steak-loving males at risk for prostate cancer and endothelial dysfunction.  For this reason, my recommendation is to eat beef sparingly.  Remember:  most of you reading this need to actually clean out your arteries, something the Ornish Diet will do.  The last thing you need is a bunch of saturated sludging around.  In fact, if you have any Erectile Dysfunction, try going without saturated fat for a couple of weeks:  you will probably see improvement from just that alone.

CAUTION: If you have a medical condition or are on any medications, please discuss any changes with your doctor first. Certain supplements, foods and even juices can alter absorption rates of certain medications for example. Play it safe.

REFERENCES:

1) J of Nutr,2004,134:1887-1893

2) J of Nutr,2006,136:2568-2573

3) Inflammation Nation, by David Chilton, Ph. D., 2006, p. 81, 92, 94, 95.

4) J of Food Science, Aug 2008, (73)6,T100-T105(1)

5) Journ Clin Invest, 117(7):1866-1875, Jul 2 2007

6) Inflammation Nation, by David Chilton, Ph. D., 2006, p. 92.

7) J Agric Food Chem, 2009, 57(2):471–477, "Angiotensin I Converting Enzyme Inhibitory Peptides from Simulated in Vitro Gastrointestinal Digestion of Cooked Eggs"

8) http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm170640.htm

9) Consumer Reports on Health, Oct 2009, p. 3.

10) Journal Nutrition 137:363-367, 2007

11) J Nutr, 138:272-276, Feb 2008, "Dietary Cholesterol from Eggs Increases Plasma HDL Cholesterol in Overweight Men Consuming a Carbohydrate-Restricted Diet"

12) J Nutr, 1995 Oct, 125(10):2528-35, "The arachidonic acid content of the Australian diet is lower than previously estimated"

13) http://www.latimes.com/health/boostershots/la-heb-egg-cholesterol-smoking-20120814,0,1391259.story

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