I know what you’re thinking, and yes I really did it. Those of you that know me know that I was one of the biggest proponents for the tasty, salty treat. For a long time, bacon was basically a staple for me. Most days I ate bacon several different times throughout the day. I read articles that espoused the reasons why bacon is far from an optimal food, and articles that told of the virtues of bacon. I even posted an article or two about the safety of the nitrates in our store bought bacon supply. Little did I know that one day, I would turn against the very thing I held dear for so long.
But….that day has come.
The simple truth is that pork, generally as a meat, is not a very healthy choice. On one side of the scale, it’s all relative, and choosing pork over something like bread or pasta is of course a very good idea. If someone were switching from the S.A.D (Standard American Diet), to a low-carb type of deal, they would do well to eat all of the bacon their heart desires. They will almost certainly lose weight, and their lipid numbers will improve. But, for someone who is really dialing in his or her diet to a Primal or Paleo approach, pork falls pretty far down the list as far as nutrition and overall quality goes.
It seems I’ve been pulling references from the Perfect Health Diet site a lot recently, but Paul seems to be good about publishing articles with reasonable frequency, and he just honestly makes a whole ton of sense. On February the 8th 2012, Paul published an article about pork, called “Pork: Did Leviticus 11:7 Have it Right?”. I think this fits right in with the reasons why I recently gave up eating bacon on the Paleo diet.
“If we were to rank popular meats by their healthfulness, the order would be (1) fish and shellfish, (2) ruminants (beef, lamb, goat), and (3) birds (duck, chicken, turkey). In last place would be pork.
Given the iconic place of bacon in the Paleo movement, it’s worth exploring the evidence against pork. George Henderson has given us a great place to start: “Nanji and Bridges identified possible problems with pork plus moderate alcohol in 1985 and other researchers have confirmed the pattern since.”
I think that any knowledgeable Paleo diet practitioner would argue Paul’s point that bacon is iconic within the Paleo movement. I don’t believe that anyone actually thinks that bacon is an optimal food…..but it is yummy!
“Pork Consumption and Liver Cirrhosis
Pork consumption has a strong epidemiological association with cirrhosis of the liver. Startlingly, pork may be even more strongly associated with alcoholic cirrhosis than alcohol itself!
The evidence was summarized by Francis Bridges in a recent (2009) paper , building on earlier work by Nanji and French . A relation between pork consumption and cirrhosis of the liver is apparent across countries and has been consistently maintained for at least 40 years.”
“In epidemiological studies, beef, lamb, and pork are often grouped together as “red meat.” However, this may conceal differences between pork and the ruminant meats. Bridges found that beef actually appeared protective against cirrhosis”
“This would be consistent with considerable evidence, discussed in our book (pp 57-58), showing that saturated fat is protective against liver disease, while polyunsaturated fat causes it. Epidemiological data confirms that saturated fat is protective”
“Beef is high in saturated fat, low in polyunsaturated fat. Pork is relatively high in polyunsaturated fat.
If the fat composition is playing a role, perhaps it is not that surprising that pork is more strongly related to cirrhosis than alcohol.
Either fructose or alcohol can react with polyunsaturated fat to produce liver disease. Sugar consumption, for example in soft drinks, may be just as likely to combine with pork to cause a cirrhotic liver as alcohol. But no other common dietary component can substitute for the role of polyunsaturated fat in causing liver disease.”
This makes a lot of sense, and fits right in with what Ray Peat says about the negative interaction between Polyunsaturated fat and Fructose in the diet. Peat says that Fructose by itself is actually beneficial, but when intake of PUFA is also significant, people can quickly develop fatty liver disease.
“Pork and Liver Cancer
We would expect that if pork can cause liver cirrhosis it will also promote liver cancer, since injured and inflamed tissues are more likely to become cancerous.
Indeed, there is an association between pork consumption and the primary liver cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma.”
“Pork and Multiple Sclerosis
Nanji and Norad  looked for other diseases that correlate with pork consumption, and hit upon multiple sclerosis. The connection is remarkable:
A significant correlation was obtained between prevalence of multiple sclerosis and … pork consumption (r = 0.87, p less than 0.001). There was no significant correlation with beef consumption. 
As noted earlier, a correlation coefficient of 0.87 is extremely high, and a p-value below 0.001 also shows a very strong relationship. MS is much more likely to befall pork eaters. Such a strong correlation makes it look like pork, or something found in pork, is the cause of MS.
Nanji and Norad further note that beef, the “other red meat,” is not associated with MS”
There are remarkably strong correlations between pork consumption and liver disease, liver cancer, and multiple sclerosis.
What can be behind those relationships? The relatively high omega-6 fat content of pork may be a contributing factor, but it can’t be the whole story. It seems there is something else in pork that makes pork consumption risky.
What is it about pork that is so dangerous, and what does it mean for our dietary advice? That will be the topic of my next post.”
Hopefully, you now know why I recently gave up eating bacon on the Paleo diet. Already knowing that pork is very high in Omega-6 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids was enough to convince me to give up the “hog”, but reading information like this really seals the deal for me. Again, it all makes a lot of sense, and I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to read about what it is in pork, that Paul believes sets it apart from other meats in it’s potentially unhealthy nature.
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Barry Cripps is a Paleo-based Nutrition and Wellness Consultant, who operates out of Bowling Green, Kentucky.
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