Monday, October 15, 2012

How Long Does Red Meat Stay in Your Intestines?

We've all heard the claim that red meat will remain in a human's intestines for 7 to 10 years.  I believe that humans are not meant to eat meat simply because our bodies are not set up for meat.  Our teeth are not designed to tear and slash into meaty flesh like a meat-eating animal.  We have a shorter digestive tract, built like that of a herbivore.  Meat eaters have a longer tract to allow the meat some digestion room and to take on a longer digestive period.

I am not a vegetarian, although I do believe that we are not meant to eat meat.  I have thought this for years and it is not just a thought but a feeling as well.  I feel better with the absence of meat in my diet and food digests much better.  The reason I am spewing out my lifestyle information is because I do not want anyone thinking this is a burger-bashing post.  I love hamburgers.

Let's examine this question with a lot of research.  How long does red meat stay in your intestines?

According to a post found on, “red meat can stay in your system 3 to 4 days after consumption and longer in the digestive tract.”  While this answer seems feasible, it is written by someone who follows the advice of the Nag Hamadi.  Not putting the Nag Hamadi down, I simply do not know who this is and how he would know the answer to this question.  Let’s dig further.

The King Institute weighs in on an answer with this reply:  “Scientists are actually able to measure this by “marking” the meal with a type of dye that eventually colors the feces, so they can see when the residue of something actually exists the body.  Once the food is broken apart into its component parts (the macro-nutrients of protein, fat, carbohydrate, water, and micro-nutrients of vitamins and minerals) the broken down products can then be absorbed into the body.  Almost all of this occurs by the time the materials reach the small intestine.  So the food that you eat for dinner tonight will be in the form of amino acids (protein), triglycerides and cholesterol (fats) and carbohydrates (mostly glucose), vitamins, minerals, and water probably by tomorrow evening.  Probably some, if not most, of it will also have been absorbed into your body and used in some way.”  --Glenn King, PhD, R.D., C.N.

Other answers come from sites such as who writes, “Less than 4-6 hours to digest meat.”

The Meat and livestock Australia website continues to claim that “meat is made up of protein and some fats which are easily digested and generally leave the stomach within 2-3 hours.  Meat is fully digested within 4-6 hours compared to the dietary fiber found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, which take more than two days.  The human digestive system is well designed to digest a variety of foods including red meat, which contains essential nutrients, like zinc, vitamin B12 and long chain omega-3s” (
Vistara Parham, RN, claims that it takes “about 4 days to digest meat and about a day and a half to digest vegetables.”

Prerna Salla, author of In Search of the Perfect Diet, claims that it takes about 48 hours to digest meat. has been quoted as saying, “Meat takes about 72 hours to digest.” gave a reply to the question, “I’ve heard it takes years for a human to digest meat.”

The response to this question was, “Absolutely false.  If it were true, the average person would have an extra 200 lbs. of red meat in their gut in just one year.  It takes 1 to 3 hours to digest meat, depending on how much you chew it and the other foods you take with it.” states, “It takes a few hours to a day to digest meat, depending on the individual’s GI tract.”

“It takes about three months to fully digest a burger,” claims a popular Health Radio program.

And the answers go on and on to this question.  So, how long does it take to digest meat?  I would assume, as would others, that a doctor and researcher would give a better answer than a health radio program or a website that allows many users to answer the questions.  A number of people believe they are experts in digestion and nutrition.  Always search for a R.D. certification after their name or an advanced degree certification such as M.S., M.P.H., or a Ph.D for the best answers.  The certification should be from a university or college that offers such training in the nutritional field.

To continue with the answer from Dr. King, “The surface area of the small intestine (with thousands of villi and micro-villi projections) is approximately 300 square yards.  The contents of the stomach enter the small intestine at different rates-carbohydrates first, then proteins, and then fats.  There are more nerve cells in the digestive system than in the peripheral nervous system.”

“Eating too much cooked or processed foods over time effects the pancreas and inhibits enzyme production.  The lack of naturally produced enzymes from the pancreas will affect the ability to properly digest food.  Cooked or processed foods are the majority of foods consumed by the average person.  This includes, so-called, healthy diets.”

“Eating such foods also causes an increase in white blood cell production (protecting the body from what you’ve eaten) each time you eat.  Over time, this reaction can impair your immune system and render it insufficient to effectively fight disease.”

“Meat is not really the issue.  It is the dietary habits of the person as a whole and the condition of the person’s health at the time.  Dietary history is important as well as the quality of the meat, amount per serving and frequency of eating meat.  Digestibility refers to the proportion of food that becomes available to the body as absorbed nutrients.  Beef is highly digestible.  In fact, 97 percent of beef is digestible, in comparison to 89 percent of flour and 65 percent of most vegetables.”

In an article titled, “How Long Does it Take a Meat Diet to Digest Compared to a Vegetarian One?” written by Adam Dave at, it takes a shorter amount of time for a vegetarian diet to digest than a non-vegetarian, according to a study published in the “British Journal of Nutrition” in 1981.  Vegetarians, in the study, digested food in 27 to 54 hours, where non-vegetarians digested their food between 31 and 96 hours.

There were some dietary factors to consider in this study such as the amount of fat you eat.  Fattier foods send signals to the stomach that will slow up the digestion time.  Fat is a complex molecule that will take longer to digest.

In conclusion?  It sounds as though the myth of meat remaining in your system for 7 to 10 years is completely crazy, which we would assume is true anyway.  From all of the answers, it seems meat digests fairly quickly.  Now all the nasty stories of how someone went into surgery and the doctors found meat inside the intestinal tract that was leftover from 10 years before are squashed.  Wouldn't you think you would have a major blockage problem if red meat remained in your system for a period of 7 to 10 years?

The answer depends on who it is you talk to.  A livestock and meat company is going to tell you that meat digests very quickly.  A vegetarian or vegetable marketing company will sell you the idea that meat takes much longer than vegetables to digest and it is harmful to your system.  Certain studies are conducted by meat production plants or by farmers who are interested in selling their products.  Ensure the study you are reading about is not conducted by a specific party trying to sell products.  It should be a completely disinterested party who could care less about either side “winning” in the study data.

Now, for that burger...

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