Bison or Beef? A Carnivore’s Dilemma

While there is no question that a plant based lifestyle is the best option for health, this still leaves an awful lot of wiggle room when it comes to non-vegetable choices.

I’ve discussed the Paleo diet in a recent blog article, and made it clear that the Westernized lifesyle limited to beef, pork and chicken is probably not consistent with the hunter gatherer lifestyle.  Our ancestor’s protein choices were far more varied than they are today.

Worse, today’s choices are fraught with pitfalls.  The treatment of commercially grown cattle is too abhorrent for most of us to observe without a huge degree of guilt for partaking in the end product of a tortured lifestyle.  Which ultimately brings us to the conversation on xenohormesis.

Xenohormesis is the concept that stress markers are passed up the food chain, possibly in the form of RNA molecules.  Regardless, it is highly likely that an extremely stressful life and horrid slaughterhouse conditions are negatively affecting our health.  Good thing we’re not already stressed out.

This concern alone leaves commercially raised cattle off the list of a healthy lifestyle.  Grass fed beef has already been shown to be a better option from a health standpoint.  This benefit stems from the less stressful environment coupled with a non-corn based diet that ups inflammatory omega-6 levels in the meat.

What about bison?  (Side note on common mistake–bison are the animal found in North America, NOT buffalo)

Bison is generally raised much differently than commercial cattle and thus should have a more favorable effect on our health.   Which is exactly what this particular study set out to find out.

Researchers looked at the effects of both a single 12 oz serving and 7 weeks of 6 servings / week of the same amount of bison meat and compared this to beef consumption on certain markers of inflammation and oxidative stress in a small group of participants.

Here’s what they found after the single serving of beef:

  1. Triglycerides and oxidized LDL were elevated 67% and 18%, respectively. Markers of oxidative stress (hydroperoxides) were up 24% The health of the blood vessels (as FMD/shear rate) was down 30%.
  2. On the other hand, consumption of a single serving of bison led to:
  3. A smaller increase in triglycerides (30%).
  4. Markers of inflammation, oxidative stress and FMD/shear rate were unchanged.

7 weeks intake of the beef led to:

  1. A 24% increase in protein carbonyl (another marker of OXIDATIVE DAMAGE).
  2. PAI-1 (a protein that makes the blood stickier and more likely to form a clot) was up 78%.
  3. The inflammatory marker interleukin-6 was up 59%.
  4. Inflammation marker C-reactive protein (CRP) was up 72%.
  5. The FMD/shear rate remained down at 19%.

The above negative changes were NOT seen in the bison group.

Before you die hard Atkin’s fans cheer wildly, remember this…a plant based diet is always your best option.  The 12 ounce serving used in this study would be considered a pretty large serving on my plate.  Most likely the 12 ounce portion would feed two of us, if not more.  And of course be dwarfed by the vegetables, beans or mushrooms on the plate.  Besides being the healthier approach, it also helps to buffer the higher cost of bison meat.

James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.