12 Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;
13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.
Note that the Lord did not impose a blanket prohibition; He merely said that meat ought to be consumed sparingly. It is up to each individual, with guidance from the Holy Ghost, to determine what is "sparingly".
But now a study which has been published in Nature Medicine implies there are also health reasons for limiting consumption of meat. According to a report from KSL Channel 5, the study, performed at the University of Washington, suggests that red meat can create conditions in your belly that can facilitate heart disease and the hardening of veins throughout the body. This is in addition to conventional wisdom, which still holds that red meat can elevate fat and cholesterol levels.
How It Works: Bacteria in your intestines can either be good or bad. Good bacteria help digest and break down food and drink. Red meat promotes a kind of bacteria that consume carnitine, a chemical often consumed as a dietary supplement and found in high levels in red meat. The only problem is that the bacteria that love red meat turn carnitine into TMAO, a chemical that hardens veins and contributes to heart disease. The more red meat you eat, the more TMAO in your system, and the greater your risk.
In the course of researching the Web to find out what thresholds of red meat consumption might be considered "safer", I found a link to a second study published on March 12th, 2012 in the Harvard Gazette. This study, conducted by Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers, found that red meat consumption is associated with an increased risk of total, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality. They found that one daily serving of unprocessed red meat (about the size of a deck of cards) was associated with a 13 percent increased risk of mortality, and one daily serving of processed red meat (one hot dog or two slices of bacon) was associated with a 20 percent increased risk. They conscluded that red meat, especially processed meat, contains ingredients that have been linked to increased risk of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. These include heme iron, saturated fat, sodium, nitrites, and certain carcinogens that are formed during cooking. It should be noted that the American Society of Animal Science disputes these findings, though.
But the Harvard study went one step further -- it showed that substituting other healthy protein sources, such as fish, poultry, nuts, and legumes, was associated with a lower risk of mortality. Specifically, replacing one serving of total red meat with one serving of a healthy protein source was associated with a lower mortality risk: 7 percent for fish, 14 percent for poultry, 19 percent for nuts, 10 percent for legumes, 10 percent for low-fat dairy products, and 14 percent for whole grains.
The bottom line -- one does not necessarily need to cut meat out of the diet; if one is concerned about the effects of red meat, one can switch to poultry or fish to reduce the risk and still enjoy the effects and taste of meat products. It is unnecessary to become a vegetarian or a vegan, although there's nothing illegitimate about those alternatives. I personally restrict myself to ground beef, chicken, and fish, with occasional sausage. Fortunately, I never acquired much of a taste for steaks or roasts. But what these two studies show is the wisdom of our Heavenly Father when He counseled us to eat meat sparingly, although the Prophet Joseph Smith was not told at the time that it was red meat that would be the greatest concern. Oftentimes we're asked to accept divine wisdom primarily on faith and wait until later for the "scientific proof".
Other scientific validation for the Word of Wisdom is published on this blog and is accessible through these posts. Amazing how much "smarter" our Heavenly Father becomes the more scientific research we do, isn't it?