Everyone loves a juicy steak and often beef is the center of family celebrations, summer barbeques, or that special dinner out. But can eating beef cause your body to become inflamed? People who have been diagnosed by a trusted Riverside Rheumatologist with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) know all too well the inflammation and pain that comes from this disease.

According to the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), RA is the most common type of autoimmune arthritis, affecting more than 1.3 million Americans. It is caused when the immune system (the body’s defense system) is not working properly.


Symptoms for rheumatoid arthritis may include:

Fatigue, fever, and weight loss
Joint stiffness that is usually worse in the mornings and after inactivity
Tender, warm, swollen joints
Although there’s not an official “RA diet” for treatment of the condition, some foods can help keep inflammation at bay. And because these foods are general low in fat and mostly unrefined – including fruits and vegetables, fish, white meat, whole grains and olive oil – they may help you feel better and keep your weight in check.

Should you cut back on red meat too?

Changing from a meat-heavy to a diet rich in whole foods often improves RA symptoms, primarily because it helps with keeping your weight down. When you are at a healthy weight, you are more likely to keep active. When activity increases, so does circulation, which is known to keep inflammation down. Red meat consumption is associated with higher overall fat and calorie intake, which are markers for weight gain and an unhealthy diet. For some people, the fats in red meat are more easily metabolized into pro-inflammatory chemicals in the body and for those people, it is suggested to consume red meat in moderation.

New studies on red meat and inflammation

There are two controlled trial studies showing eating red meat does not increase inflammation in most people. One of the studies showed that replacing carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, and breakfast cereals) with red meat might actually decrease inflammation. Another study showed that a diet high in red meat versus a diet high in oily fish (omega-3 fatty acids) showed no marked difference in inflammation. What these studies suggest is that eating red meat is no more inflammatory than other meats and likely less inflammatory than eating carbohydrates.

Another observation worth considering is that our ancestors and modern-day hunters and gatherers consume red meat regularly. Not only were our ancestors largely free of chronic inflammatory diseases, but so are modern day hunters and gatherers like the Masai tribe of Kenya and Tanzania. They are hunters whose diet consists almost entirely of milk, meat, and blood.

The bottom line is that there is no good evidence red meat causes more inflammation than other meats. If anything there is evidence that red meat decreases inflammation. It’s possible that there are people that might not tolerate red meat well which might create inflammation. In general, however, there is no reason for people to fear eating red meat on the basis of inflammation.

Although there’s not a diet that will cure RA, there are definitely steps anyone can take to help with the symptoms. If you need advice and want to speak with a trusted rheumatoid arthritis doctor about diagnosis, your diet, or the latest treatment options for RA, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with Southland Arthritis today by calling 1 (951) 924-6500.