Dr. Mercola Articles
Magnesium — One of the Most Important Nutrients for Heart Health
Mon, 19 Feb 2018 06:00:00 GMT

By Dr. Mercola

Magnesium deficiency is extremely common, and recent research shows even subclinical deficiency can jeopardize your heart health. Magnesium is also important for brain health, detoxification, cellular health and function, and the optimization of your mitochondria. In short, magnesium has enormous potential to influence your health and general well-being, especially the prevention of heart disease and cancer, but also for general energy and athletic performance.

Why You Need Magnesium

Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in your body and is involved in more than 600 different biochemical reactions. For example, magnesium plays an important role in:

Creation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy currency of your body1,2

Metabolism of calcium, potassium, zinc, phosphorous, iron, sodium, hydrochloric acid, acetylcholine and nitric oxide, as well as 300 enzymes and the activation of thiamine.3

Magnesium is also required for DNA, RNA and protein synthesis and integrity,4 and plays a role in the creation of chromosomes5

Mitochondrial function and health. Magnesium is required both for increasing the number of mitochondria in your cells and for increasing mitochondrial efficiency

Regulation of blood sugar and insulin sensitivity, which is important for the prevention of Type 2 diabetes6,7,8,9 (In one study,10 prediabetics with the highest magnesium intake reduced their risk for blood sugar and metabolic problems by 71 percent)

Relaxation of blood vessels and normalizing blood pressure

Detoxification, including the synthesis of glutathione, considered by many to be your body's most powerful antioxidant

Muscle and nerve function, including the action of your heart muscle

Antioxidant defense via a number of different mechanisms, including anti-inflammatory activity and support of endothelial and mitochondrial function11

Maintenance of ionic gradients — keeping intracellular sodium and calcium low and potassium high — and maintaining cellular and tissue integrity12

Catalyzing mood-regulating neurotransmitters like serotonin, which helps prevent anxiety and depression. It also provides mental and physical relaxation and is considered an important stress antidote13

Lowering the damage from electromagnetic fields (EMF) by blocking voltage gated calcium channels

Supporting healthy brain function. Magnesium acts as a buffer between neuron synapses, particularly those involved with cognitive functions (learning and memory).

Magnesium "sits" on the receptor without activating it, protecting the receptor from overactivation by other neurochemicals, especially glutamate, an excitotoxin that can harm your brain if it accumulates.

Magnesium also helps prevent migraine headaches14 by relaxing blood vessels in your brain and acting as a calcium channel blocker15

Even Subclinical Magnesium Deficiency Can Wreak Havoc on Your Heart Health

Since it's required for the healthy function of most cells in your body, a lack of magnesium can lead to significant health problems. Magnesium is particularly important for your heart health, helping you maintain normal blood pressure and protect against stroke. According to a 2013 scientific review,16 which included studies dating as far back as 1937, low magnesium may in fact be the greatest predictor of heart disease — not cholesterol or saturated fat intake. At the time, lead author Andrea Rosanoff, Ph.D., told journalists:17

"These numerous studies have found low magnesium to be associated with all known cardiovascular risk factors, such as cholesterol and high blood pressure, arterial plaque buildup (atherogenesis), hardening of the arteries and the calcification of soft tissues. This means we have been chasing our tails all of these years going after cholesterol and the high saturated-fat diet, when the true culprit was and still is low magnesium."

As explained by British cardiologist Dr. Sanjay Gupta,18 magnesium supports heart health via a number of different mechanisms. For starters, it combats inflammation, thereby helping prevent hardening of your arteries and high blood pressure. It also improves blood flow by relaxing your arteries, and helps prevent your blood from thickening, allowing it to flow more smoothly. All of these basic effects are important for optimal heart function.

A recent paper in the Open Heart journal warns that even subclinical deficiency can lead to cardiovascular problems. According to the authors:19

"… 'Various studies have shown that at least 300 mg of magnesium must be supplemented to establish a significantly increased serum magnesium concentrations …' In other words, most people need an additional 300 mg of magnesium per day in order to lower their risk of developing numerous chronic diseases.

So while the recommended … recommended dietary allowance [RDA] for magnesium (between 300 and 420 mg /day for most people) may prevent frank magnesium deficiency, it is unlikely to provide optimal health and longevity, which should be the ultimate goal."

Higher Magnesium Level = Lower Disease and Mortality Risk

A 2016 meta-analysis20 of 40 studies involving more than 1 million participants in nine countries also found that, compared to those with the lowest intakes, those with the highest magnesium intakes had:

  • A 10 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease
  • 12 percent lower risk of stroke
  • 26 percent lower risk of Type 2 diabetes

Increasing magnesium intake by 100 mg per day lowered participants' risk for:

  • Heart failure by 22 percent
  • Stroke by 7 percent
  • Diabetes by 19 percent
  • All-cause mortality by 10 percent

Magnesium Is Necessary for Mitochondrial Health

Mitochondria, tiny bacteria-derived organelles residing inside your cells, are the main energy producers in your body, as they're responsible for creating adenosine triphospate (ATP). Mounting evidence suggests that most health problems can be traced back to mitochondrial dysfunction, so making sure you get the right nutrients and precursors your mitochondria need for optimal performance is extremely important for health, disease prevention and physical performance.

As explained by Rhonda Patrick, Ph.D., in the video above, magnesium plays an important role. Without it, other strategies aimed at improving mitochondrial health simply won't work properly.

As just one example, athletic performance is in part dependent on your oxidative capacity (the ability of your muscle cells to consume oxygen), and your oxidative capacity relies on your mitochondria's ability to produce ATP by consuming oxygen inside the cell. You can increase your oxidative capacity in two ways, and both require magnesium:

  1. Increasing the total number of mitochondria in your cells by engaging in exercise. However, in order for new mitochondria to be created, you must have sufficient amounts of magnesium. 
  2. Increasing the efficiency of your mitochondria to repair damage and produce ATP. This process also requires magnesium as a co-factor.

Magnesium Is Also Essential for Cell Division

Recent research21 also shows that magnesium is critical for chromosome folding, which allows cells to divide, multiply and regenerate to make up for lost or damaged cells. According to the authors, "The findings provide a new mechanism for chromosome organization."

Using a newly developed type of ion detector called magnesium ratiometric indicator for optical imaging (MARIO), Japanese researchers were able to demonstrate how changes in the concentration of free magnesium ions inside cells affects the folding of chromosomes. In summary, the researchers found that:

  • Chromosomes, which have a negative charge, are neutralized by free magnesium, which is what allows the chromosomes to condense during cell division.
  • Free magnesium ions dramatically increase during cell division, peaking "during the transition from metaphase to anaphase, which marks the period in cell division that the cell membrane begins showing signs of breaking into two cells."
  • There's a "clear relationship" between the ATP level in the cell and the number of free magnesium ions. The less ATP present, the greater the free magnesium level and the more chromosome condensation occurs, allowing for more efficient cell division. The authors' hypothesis is that "ATP-bound magnesium is released by the hydrolysis of ATP." (Hydrolysis refers to the chemical reaction during which energy stored in ATP is released).

Most People Are Magnesium Deficient

Magnesium resides at the center of the chlorophyll molecule, so if you rarely eat fresh leafy greens, you're probably not getting much magnesium from your diet. Furthermore, while eating organic whole foods will help optimize your magnesium intake, it's still not a surefire way to ward off magnesium deficiency, as most soils have become severely depleted of nutrients, including magnesium.

Magnesium absorption is also dependent on having sufficient amounts of selenium, parathyroid hormone and vitamins B6 and D, and is hindered by excess ethanol, salt, coffee and phosphoric acid in soda. Sweating, stress, lack of sleep, excessive menstruation, certain drugs (especially diuretics and proton-pump inhibitors) also deplete your body of magnesium.22 For these reasons, many experts recommend taking supplemental magnesium. Taking a magnesium supplement is particularly advisable if you:23

Experience symptoms of insufficiency or deficiency24

Have hypertension

Engage in strenuous exercise on a regular basis. Research shows just six to 12 weeks of strenuous physical activity can result in magnesium deficiency,25 likely due to increased magnesium demand in your skeletal muscle

Are taking diuretics or medication for hypertension, especially thiazides, which have been shown to induce undetectable magnesium deficiency26 (while patients may have normal or even high serum magnesium, their bodies are actually depleted of magnesium)

Have had or are planning heart transplant or open heart surgery

Are at risk for or have had a heart attack, or if you experience ventricular arrhythmia

Are insulin resistant or diabetic (as this increases magnesium depletion)

Have congestive heart failure

How to Boost Your Magnesium Level

The RDA for magnesium is around 310 to 420 mg per day depending on your age and sex,27 but many experts believe you may need 600 to 900 mg per day, which is more in line with the magnesium uptake during the Paleolithic period.28 Personally, I believe many may benefit from amounts as high as 1 to 2 grams (1,000 to 2,000 mg) of elemental magnesium per day, as most of us have EMF exposures that simply cannot be mitigated, and the extra magnesium should help lower the damage from that exposure.

Elemental refers to how much pure magnesium is in each mg or what percent is actual magnesium which changes the actual dose as they are all different.  You need far more of some than others as they have lower percentage of magnesium. Generally most supplements provide about 10-15% of the total dose as elemental magnesium after you factor in absorption.

One of the best forms is magnesium threonate, as it appears to be the most efficient at penetrating cell membranes, including your mitochondria and blood-brain barrier. Another effective way to boost your magnesium level is to take Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) baths, as the magnesium will effectively absorb through your skin. I seek to use about two ounces a week. I am also fond of magnesium maalate as malic acid is a Krebs cycle intermediate useful for ATP production.

I prepare a supersaturated solution of Epsom salts by dissolving 7 tablespoons of the salt into 6 ounces of water and heating it until all the salt has dissolved. I pour it into a dropper bottle and then apply it to my skin and rub fresh aloe leaves over it to dissolve it. This is an easy and inexpensive way to increase your magnesium and will allow you to get higher dosages into your body without having to deal with its laxative effects.

If you agree with the higher doses of magnesium, it is best to take it in evenly divided doses throughout the day to prevent loose stools. It can be taken with or without food. If you're also taking calcium, take them together. If you exercise regularly, consider taking your calcium and magnesium in a ratio of one part calcium to two parts magnesium with your pre-workout meal.29

While the ideal ratio of magnesium to calcium is thought to be 1-to-1, most people get far more calcium than magnesium from their diet; hence, your need for supplemental magnesium may be two to three times greater than calcium.

Signs and Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency

To measure your magnesium level and gauge how much magnesium you might need, get an RBC magnesium test (which measures the amount of magnesium in your red blood cells) and track your signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency (see below). Also keep an eye on your potassium and calcium levels, as low potassium and calcium are common laboratory signs of magnesium deficiency.30

Common signs and symptoms of magnesium insufficiency include the following.31,32 For a more exhaustive list of signs and symptoms, see Dr. Carolyn Dean's blog post, "Gauging Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms."33 If you regularly experience any of these, chances are you need more magnesium.

Seizures; muscle spasms, especially "charley horses" or spasms in your calf muscle that happen when you stretch your leg and/or eye twitches

The Trousseau sign.34 To check for this sign, a blood pressure cuff is inflated around your arm. The pressure should be greater than your systolic blood pressure and maintained for three minutes.

By occluding the brachial artery in your arm, spasms in your hand and forearm muscles are induced.

If you are magnesium deficient, the lack of blood flow will cause your wrist and metacarpophalangeal joint to flex and your fingers to adduct. For a picture of this hand/wrist position, see Wikipedia35

Numbness or tingling in your extremities

Low potassium and calcium levels

Insulin resistance

Increased number of headaches and/or migraines

High blood pressure, heart arrhythmias and/or coronary spasms

Low energy, fatigue and/or loss of appetite

Protect Your Health by Optimizing Your Magnesium Intake

While you may still need magnesium supplementation, it would certainly be wise to try to get as much magnesium from your diet as possible. Organic unprocessed foods would be your best bet, but if they're grown in magnesium-depleted soil, even organics could be low in this vital mineral. Dark-green leafy vegetables lead the pack when it comes to magnesium content, and juicing your greens is an excellent way to boost your intake.

Other foods that are particularly rich in magnesium include the following.36 Including more magnesium-rich foods in your diet along with magnesium supplementation, if needed, can go a long way toward optimizing your health and preventing chronic disease, and is an extremely cost-effective way to lower your risk of heart disease.

Raw cacao nibs and/or unsweetened cocoa powder

One ounce (28.35 grams) or raw cacao nibs contain about 65 mg of magnesium.


One cup of avocado on average (values differ depending on whether they come from California or Florida) contains about 44 mg of magnesium. Avocados are also a good source of potassium, which helps offset the hypertensive effects of sodium.

Seeds and nuts

Pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds score among the highest, with one-quarter cup providing an estimated 191 mg, 129 mg and 41 mg of magnesium respectively. Cashews, almonds and Brazil nuts are also good sources; one-fourth cup of cashews contains 89 mg of magnesium.

Herbs and spices

Herbs and spices pack lots of nutrients in small packages and this includes magnesium. Some of the most magnesium-rich varieties are coriander, chives, cumin seed, parsley, mustard seeds, fennel, basil and cloves.

Organic, raw grass fed yogurt and natto

Yogurt made from raw organic grass fed milk with no added sugars; 1 cup of natto yields 201 mg of magnesium.

Weekly Health Quiz: Plants, Pollution and Digestion
Mon, 19 Feb 2018 06:00:00 GMT

1 A potent adaptogen, this perennial plant has been shown to boost vitality and mood by modulating your immune function and enhancing nervous system health, and may offer powerful protection against burnout.

  • Rhodiola Rosea

    Rhodiola rosea is a powerful adaptogen known to enhance vitality by helping your body adapt to physical, chemical and environmental stress. Learn more.

  • Ginseng
  • Holy Basil
  • Rosemary

2 CDC Director Dr. Brenda Fitzpatrick resigned from her post a day after it was publicly revealed that she had bought stocks in:

  • Fracking industry
  • Tobacco industry

    Mere months into her new job as director of the CDC, Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald purchased stocks in a Japanese tobacco company, even though smoking is a leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. She resigned the day after her new investments were publicly exposed. Learn more.

  • Processed food industry
  • Soda industry

3 Which of the following industries has been identified as a major contributor to India's rapidly growing water pollution problem and a culprit in growing antibiotic-resistance?

  • Water treatment
  • Pharmaceutical

    Between 2010 and 2015, the number of contaminated waterways in India more than doubled, and the severe water pollution problem can be, to a significant extent, traced back to the drug industry. Drug companies that outsource production of ingredients to India are now urged to take proactive steps to end pollution within their supply chain. Learn more.

  • Agriculture
  • Petroleum

4 Studying the circulatory system of plants, Andrew Fletcher, a mechanical engineer, stumbled on a discovery that led to the following therapy:

  • Earthing
  • Blood flow restriction training
  • Inclined bed therapy

    In plants, the interplay between gravity and varying density of fluids is what causes the sap to circulate up and down in a perpetual loop. The same mechanism appears to apply to human biology as well, which is the basis for inclined bed therapy. Learn more.

  • Homeopathy

5 In addition to its value as a culinary and ornamental plant, this ancient herb has medicinal value to aid digestion, boost cognitive function, manage diabetes and treat inflammation.

  • Parsley
  • Sage

    Beyond its culinary uses, sage has medicinal value to aid digestion, boost cognitive function, manage diabetes and treat inflammation, among others. Learn more.

  • Rosemary
  • Marjoram

6 To build a strong and productive nation, president-elect John F. Kennedy challenged Americans to:

  • Read more
  • Get higher education
  • Build and maintain physical fitness

    JFK was a firm believer in the idea that physical fitness leads to a healthy mind, body and spirit, and that it produces academic excellence. In 1960, he challenged Americans to view personal fitness as a citizen's duty to build a strong, healthy nation. Learn more.

  • Build improved weapons systems

7 The TB12 Method is named after which professional athlete?

  • Toby Bailey
  • Terry Baker
  • Tom Brady

    The TB12 Method, named after NFL quarterback Tom Brady, focuses on pliability training — deep force muscle work that lengthens and softens muscles at the same time through rhythmic contraction and relaxation. Learn more.

  • Troy Bell
Why This Meat Is so Healthy
Mon, 19 Feb 2018 06:00:00 GMT

By Dr. Mercola

Even though grass fed and grain-finished beef sales have grown by 1,500 percent since 2012, according to ABC News, they are still overshadowed by conventional beef sales in the U.S., which topped $105 billion in 2015.1 While there is a long way to go before grass fed beef will become as popular as its conventional counterpart, the tides are changing as more consumers are demanding higher quality, safer meat products.

Once again, the health benefits of grass fed beef — to both the consumer and the soil — are making news. An ABC News feature highlights the success Texas farmers had in surviving a multiyear drought using regenerative agriculture practices and rotational grazing. The solution to their success was so simple and it can be applied anywhere: healthy soil + healthy grass = healthy grass fed beef.

Grass to the Rescue: Grass Fed Cows Save Drought-Stricken Texas Farms

As featured on ABC News’ “Food Forecast” program,2 the native grasses used to pasture grass fed beef is more than just animal feed — it’s vital to the survival of both the soil and ranching way of life. Among those interviewed by program host Ginger Zee, chief meteorologist for ABC News, was cattle rancher Jon Taggart of Grandview, Texas, who has been raising grass fed and grass-finished cows for slaughter since 1999. To bring his meat to market, Taggart owns and operates three stores in Texas that sell pastured beef.

In 2011, as other ranchers watched feed grasses dry up and die when oppressive heat and drought gripped Texas, Taggart continued operating his business as usual. “I'm proud to say we harvested cattle every week of the year through that entire drought,” he told ABC News. The drought, by the way, lasted into 2015.

While millions of cattle were moved out of Texas to survive the heat and shortage of edible forage, Taggart did not destock a single animal, or turn to supplemental feeding. He attributes his success to the fact his farm was replete with what he calls “those deep-rooted native grasses that were designed [to survive those droughts] by somebody a lot bigger than us.”

After initially raising grain-finished cows — meaning the animals, after starting a grass diet, were fed corn and other grains at the end of their lives as a means of increasing their size and weight just before slaughter — Taggart and others began feeding their cows exclusively on grass. As you may imagine, feeding large herds of farm animals grass on a continuous basis requires an abundant and diverse crop of seasonal grasses.

Said Taggart, “We want an extremely diversified plant population: warm season grasses, cool season grasses, grasses that germinate early and grasses that germinate later.” Cultivating a variety of grasses enables Taggart’s soil to remain fortified and healthy despite challenging weather conditions, including drought. His farmland retains water and other essential nutrients so the soil remains healthy year-round.

Focusing on Soil Health Breathes Life Back Into Farmland

When the 2011 drought hit, Jonathan and Kaylyn Cobb, one of the owner/operator families of Green Fields Farm in Rogers, Texas, were ready to sell their family ranch due to the poor condition of its soil.3 “We didn’t have any life in our soil and … we weren’t aware of it at all,” says Jonathan Cobb. “We killed everything that wasn’t what we were trying to grow because that is all we knew.”

After putting their home up for sale, the couple met with sixth-generation cattle farmer and regenerative agriculture consultant Allen Williams, Ph.D., who called out their dry powdery soil as the root problem. To save their soil and their farm, Williams suggested they begin raising entirely grass fed cows using a system of rotational grazing. His advice transformed their perspective on farming and gave them a vision for the value and importance of regenerative land management.

The foundation of rotational grazing is the development of paddocks — large plots of grass — and the systematic movement of herds from one paddock to another for forage. This cycle of rotation allows the grass to recover and regrow naturally in each paddock as the cows move on to a new one. Not only do the cows get plenty of exercise, but they also gain weight at a healthy pace. After taking Williams’ advice, the Cobbs changed their entire approach to farming, which returned health, vitality and structure to their soil.

Now, with rotational grazing solidly in place, Jonathan Cobb said his cows gain, on average, 3.5 pounds a day on a totally grass fed diet consisting of about 40 pounds of daily grass intake per animal. “It sounds funny to say, but we bought cattle for the soil,” states Kaylyn Cobb. “The reason we brought cattle back onto the land was because we knew it was a fundamental element needed to restore life to the soil.”

Why Is Soil Quality so Important?

According to Taggart, the Cobbs and Williams, soil is a key factor in not only farming but livestock operations, too.4 In particular, the Cobbs have learned good soil aggregation and structure are paramount to success. “It used to be thought you had to use a plow and till up the soil to get oxygen in there,” stated Jonathan Cobb. “We know now every time you’re doing that you lose aggregation and just have powdery soil. Worms are the only tillage we need — they aerate the soil for us.”

About the value of worms, Kaylyn Cobb asserts, “Now that the soil health has improved, we have soil aggregates and earthworms that make channels so the water can go into soil. All of this life [in the ground] is like a sponge, and we can take more water in and store it in our soil.” Williams comes alongside ranchers with the goal of regenerating soil which, in turn, enables them to raise healthy livestock in a manner that is both efficient and profitable.

Based on consulting with more than 6,000 farmers and ranchers, he asserts soil health is a vital consideration for any successful farm. The motivation should be the same, he says, regardless of whether the cows are grain- or grass fed. Said Williams:

“I want every farmer and rancher who is growing livestock to adopt these adaptive-grazing practices, and to build their soil organic matter and soil health. … [T]his is going to make a whole sea change in the way our soil functions, the way our ecosystem works, and our water quality and our climate.”

Cows and Grass: They Naturally Go Together

Taggart suggests pairing cows with farmland represents a “return to nature.” Cows, he notes, are ruminant animals. “They have four parts to their stomachs for a reason, and that’s so they can digest grass, which we don’t do very well,” he says. “They can convert [grass] into a protein that we are able to consume.” Because cows were designed to eat grass and they’ve been doing it for millennia, Taggart believes the system “works very well if you kind of get out of the way and let it happen.”

That is the approach he took on his ranch, which amounts to about 1,400 acres. When he first took over, about 900 acres of it was farmland. Right way, Taggart began converting the farmed land back to native grasses. Those grasses and a system of rotational grazing have fueled Taggart’s success and allowed his operation to remain productive throughout periods of challenging weather. Not only do cows eat grass, but as they are rotated across pastures full of it, they bring many benefits to the life cycle, including:5

  • Grazing cuts grass blades and releases seeds, spurring new and continuous growth
  • Cow manure is a natural fertilizer and helps the grass grow
  • Trampling assists in working animal manure and other decaying organic matter into the soil, resulting in a rich humus
  • Soil erosion is reduced because grass, unlike grains, regrows naturally and does not disturb the soil
  • Healthy soil keeps carbon dioxide underground and out of the atmosphere

The Roots of Regenerative Farming

Among the most influential voices for the development of regenerative farming is rangeland consultant Allan Savory, president and founder of the Savory Institute, a Boulder, Colorado, nonprofit with a vision to restore grasslands around the world. Savory estimates he’s trained upward of 10,000 ranchers, representing a collective 40 million acres of global pasture, on "holistic management and planned grazing," which is his trademark method of regenerative agriculture.

To advance his practices, Savory has launched a global network of farmers who desire to move beyond sustainability to regeneration, and they are committed to employing his techniques. About Savory and his network, EatingWell states:6

“They believe … farmers have a duty to go further, by steadily improving their land with the goal of bringing it closer to what was here before the advent of modern agriculture, a time when lush prairies covered much of the central United States.

The grasses provided food for vast herds of bison and other herbivores that, in turn, fertilized the soil — a symbiotic relationship that promoted a hearty regrowth of vegetation, improved nutrient content and allowed the ground to hold more moisture. Regenerative agriculture attempts to mimic these conditions with livestock, such as cattle, sheep and goats.”

Experts like Savory believe grazing livestock could reverse desertification and also help reduce greenhouse gases. In fact, the Savory Institute suggests if degraded grasslands were turned around on a large scale, “enough carbon could be sunk into the soil to lower greenhouse gas concentrations to preindustrial levels in a matter of decades.”7

Soil managed regeneratively, including the addition of grazing livestock, has the ability to trap and store large amounts of carbon that otherwise would remain in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas. A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimated U.S. farm and grazing land collectively stores about 20 million metric tons of carbon a year. The results suggested U.S. farm soils keep out more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than they put in.

The USDA stated, “With improved management, farms and rangelands have the potential to store an additional 180 million metric tons annually, for a total of 200 million metric tons a year. This would be 12 to 14 percent of total U.S. emissions of carbon.”8 If advocates of regenerative farming are correct about the impact of their practices on the environment, then eating grass fed meat might be the best thing you can do for the environment.

Why Conventional Meat Is Bad for You

Many so-called experts continue to suggest meat production — especially beef — contributes to environmental destruction. Therefore, the logic follows, if you give up eating meat from farm animals, you will help reduce your carbon footprint.

As Williams, Savory and others attest, the reality is not all meat production is the same, especially when it comes to beef. While all cows begin their lives foraging for grass on open pasture, about 97 percent of U.S. cattle spend their last days in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), where they are fattened with grain prior to slaughter.9

This system of using CAFOs, which are hotbeds for disease and antibiotic misuse, is energy-intensive and responsible for the high carbon emissions normally associated with livestock operations. If you need more convincing about the dangers of CAFOS, also known as factory farms, check out my “The Truth About Factory Farms” infographic.

Of particular cause for alarm is the long-standing practice CAFOs have of feeding low doses of antibiotics to farm animals, which enables pathogens to survive, adapt and eventually thrive. The reality that nearly 80 percent of antibiotics administered in the U.S. go into farm animals should give you a sense of why CAFOs are becoming increasingly more well-known for their role in spreading deadly antibiotic-resistant disease.

Antibiotic Use in CAFO Animals Is Out of Control

Instances of antibiotic resistance continue to rise, with about 2 million drug-resistant infections occurring annually in the U.S., resulting in the deaths of an estimated 23,000 people.10 Similarly, about 25,000 Europeans annually succumb to drug-resistant infections.11

According to The Guardian,12 livestock raised for food in the U.S. are given, on average, five times the amount of antibiotics as compared to farm animals in the U.K. Presently, the free use of growth hormones in the U.S. has resulted in a ban on imports of American beef throughout Europe. Research by the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics, a U.K. lobby group, asserts antibiotic use in conventionally raised farm animals in the U.S. as compared to the U.K. is:13,14

  • Nine times as much in the case of cattle raised for beef
  • 5.5 times higher for turkeys
  • Three times higher in chickens
  • Twice as high for pigs

About the disparity in antibiotic use between the U.S. and U.K., Suzi Shingler, campaign manager for Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics, said:

“U.S. cattle farmers are massively overusing antibiotics. These findings show the huge advantages of British beef, which is often from grass-reared animals, whereas U.S. cattle are usually finished in intensive feedlots. Trade negotiators who may be tempted to lift the ban on U.S. beef should not only be considering the impact of growth hormones, but also, antibiotic resistance due to rampant antibiotic use.”

While livestock may occasionally require antibiotics to cure an infection, CAFOs routinely misuse antibiotics in an attempt to speed up animal growth or to offset overcrowding and poor hygiene. According to the CDC, 12 antibiotic-resistant pathogens pose a "serious threat” to public health, and one-third of them are food-related infections, including Campylobacter, E. coli, Salmonella and Shigella.

Given the high risk of contamination associated with conventional meat, grass fed meat — as Taggart, Williams and others have asserted — is the healthiest and safest meat for you to eat. Stay away from all meat that is grain-fed or grain-finished. Get to know your local farmers and seek out local sources for high-quality grass fed meat.

Soil-Based Agriculture Is Vital to Our Future on Planet Earth

Soil-based agriculture, especially organic and regenerative agriculture, is essential to human survival because these types of farming center around holistic land-management practices designed to improve biodiversity, soil health and water scarcity. As mentioned, these approaches also build healthy soils capable of drawing down excess carbon in the atmosphere.15 Healthy soil connects to everything up the food chain, from plant and insect health all the way up to animal and human health.

As such, health truly begins in the soil in which your food is grown. Moving toward a system where 100 percent of your food is produced using organic and regenerative practices is imperative not only for renewing the Earth’s precious resources but also for sustaining human life. If you are interested in learning more about how you can help bring about positive change, check out my article “How to Use Regenerative Farming Principles to Grow Healthier Food in Your Own Garden.”