The J-Man Chronicles: Do You Have 'Meat Sweats?'

You might make it through the day without learning about the science of "Meat Sweats." But you'd be missing something special in your otherwise-dreary and pointless life. Don't risk it. Read this idiotic article.

While on a laser-guided mission to stuff my fat face full of ice cream taking a stroll last night, I was one of several victims passersby who were stopped by two women asking whether I would help "resolve a family conflict." It occurred to me that this was a bit like asking RFK Jr. for a recommendation for a good science text, but I just couldn't resist. Too good an opportunity to make trouble.

Woman #1: "Have you heard of the "meat sweats?"

Me: "Duh?"

Woman #2 (at 85 decibels): "See that! Nobody knows!

Then Neanderthal-looking guy sitting nearby chimes in: "Yeah, Dats when youse eat too much meats and starts sweatin."

Woman #1 (screaming orgasmically): "I knew it!!!!"

Not good. I write about health stuff for a living and was clueless about this timely subject while Neanderthal Guy, who, on a good day, might be able to read his watch, knew about it?? What does this say about ACSH?? Have we let our readers down this badly?

After arriving home and checking with Mr. Google, I was mortified to find that Neanderthal Guy and Screaming-Orgasm Woman were correct. "Meat Sweats" is indeed real. Sort of.

The Urban Dictionary was marginally useful:

An excessive amount of perspiration, due to the consumption of an enormous amount of pork BBQ, which leads to a bout of explosive diarrhea.

This definition is not scientifically rigorous; there are too many variables and cause and effect are poorly defined. Does the pork itself cause the sweats? The sauce? Do either of these foods directly cause explosive diarrhea, or do they simply cause sweating, which is an intermediary on the sweat-to-diarrhea continuum? Because if the "sweats" is merely a transient cog in the process, shouldn't the term be "meat squirts," right? 

The term's origin is not The Lancet, but rather, a different sitcom – Friends. According to a 2022 New York Times article:

Although it is unclear exactly when and where the term was coined, it was popularized in a 2001 episode of “Friends,” when the character Joey Tribbiani ate an entire turkey, wiped his forehead and said, “Here come the meat sweats.”

Melinda Wenner Moyer, New York Times, December 20, 2022

Ms. Moyer, a science journalist who writes the Ask Well feature in the Times, was likewise asking whether meat sweats was real or imagined, and she took it seriously.

Here's the science, such as it is:

  • Eating protein raises your body temperature a bit more than fats or carbohydrates because it takes more energy to digest protein (simple organic chemistry here).
  • What is referred to as a "landmark study" (10 women) in 2002 seems to back this up.
  • Whether this causes sweating is not well known (yet the world keeps spinning).
  • One physician was quoted as saying, “Meat sweats are not a one has ever reported sweating.” He has obviously not been on the NYC subway in August, which smells (and feels) like a cattle auction. 
  • Another physician said:  “If you have a high-meat meal in the middle of summer in Midtown Manhattan, outside, and it’s like 90 degrees, yes, you will sweat." This guy is a real New Yorker. And a master of the obvious.

I don't know who Ms. Moyer pissed off to draw this assignment; the article isn't terribly informing or entertaining.

But the same cannot be said for the reader's comments. There is gold in there. Here are a few nuggets:

  • 'Moehoward' writes: "It's never the meat that makes you sweat; it's the gulping of air and holding ones breath as they indulge in a meat-gorging frenzy." Moe must be one highly sought-after dinner guest.
  • 'The Scrambled Egg' opines: "Nothing like a good sweat after pounding down a roast. I like to sit by the tv and perspire on the couch with a bottle of beer." But this vile slob won't be doing so in my house.

  • 'Morgan' takes issue with the science, perhaps a bit too much so: "What is more disturbing is that out of the four studies cited, three were "small" and the other (the "landmark") was 21 y/o. We have been bankrolling our massive military-industrial complex and repeatedly failing "nation-building" ventures but are failing to invest into the research of our own bodies. We are making well-being decisions informed by small studies of "eight women." Morgan has anger issues, no?

  • But 'David' takes issue with 'Morgan': "@Morgan Really? We're going to invoke the military-industrial complex for an article about meat sweats?" That's as good a comeback as I've heard in some time. Props for David.

  • 'Cary' recognizes the difference between eating the burger and being the burger: "I may have sweated a bit when I ate the burger, but I'll bet that the cow sweated even more vigorously just before...well, you know." 

  • 'Joe S.' ponders the following: "Eating meat can make you smell bad, more musky, etc. Or maybe that's just me?" Yes, Joe, It's you.

  • 'WaterLady' and 'Potosi' got into it: 'WaterLady':I don't know about meat sweats, but I do know that meat eaters' sweat has a more pungent, unpleasant smell than vegetarians and vegans. And Potosi responds: "My experience with Vegans has been the exact opposite. Every single vegan I have talked with has smelled horrible, as if they hadn't showered for over a week (it's possible they hadn't!)"  But if they should meet on Tinder perhaps they would click anyhow. But not without some internal conflict.

WaterLady and Potosi, despite seemingly irreconcilable differences, meet for a jogging date. Possibly a good match but not without compromising certain core values. Free image: Pxfuel

  • 'Kevo' writes all the way from Sweden: "This sounds like it might fit with Chinese medicine, which describes different foods as warm or cool. Don't know for sure if meat is warm, but maybe someone can answer?" Comforting to know that the US doesn't have a monopoly on morons.

  • 'Somewhere' (from Germany) perhaps sums it up best: "Halfway through reading this, I thought, “Why am I reading this?” - I think it’s time to pick up a book or go for a walk or phone a friend." 

The same could be said for this inane article.