Eat Less Red Meat, Scientists Said. Now Some Believe That Was Bad Advice

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I have a finite # of NYT articles per month so didn’t read this but I eat less beef than I used to for environmental not health reasons.

That’s the paper from the NutriRECS guys which is highly controversial as their interpretation of some results is at least questionable - also their method is criticized by some leading scientists.

One good summary - “ The American Cancer Society ran the numbers and found that by “applying the author’s own calculations of individual risk difference to the general population … cutting back on red and processed meats could prevent 8,000 cancer deaths over the lifetime of 1,000,000 people,” said Marji McCullough, who is the senior scientific director of epidemiology research for the American Cancer Society. “So they’re not saying meat is less risky; they’re saying the risk that everyone agrees on is acceptable for individuals.”

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Cath - check your library - many of them now offer online access to the NY Times as part of your account. The Los Angeles Public Library does and, for folks who love the Washington Post (great food articles!) you can get cheaper access through Amazon Prime. Not free but, cheaper…

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Ooh, thanks. I’d have never thought of that.

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Dr. Dennis Bier of Baylor said the studies of meat consumption are so flawed that it is naïve to assume these risk reductions are caused by eating less meat. “The rules of scientific proof are the same for physics as for nutrition,” he said in a telephone interview. But unlike experiments in physics, where investigators can control variables and determine causality, in nutrition “you can’t conduct the experiment.”

  • The new guidelines are not justified as they contradict the evidence generated from their own meta-analyses . Among the five published systematic reviews, three meta-analyses basically confirmed previous findings on red meat and negative health effects.

First, the effect estimates may seem small because the unit of exposure (3 servings/week) is small. However, the potential health benefits of reducing consumption would be much larger for individuals consuming 1 serving/day of red meat or more (among approximately 1/3 of US adults).* Based on their meta-analyses of large cohorts, dietary patterns with a moderate reduction in red and processed meat consumption were associated with lower total mortality by 13% (95% Confidence interval 8% to 18%), CVD mortality by 14% (6% to 21%), cancer mortality by 11% (4% to 17%), and type 2 diabetes risk by 24% (14% to 32%). These risk reductions are substantial at both individual and population levels. We currently spend tens of billion dollars per year on screening and treating risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes that have benefits of this magnitude.

The majority of nutrition studies are observational — in the case of red meat, they asked if meat-eaters were less healthy, and if those who ate more were also less healthy than those who ate less. But it’s extremely difficult to know what someone is eating; many study participants struggle to remember and accurately report their diets. And meat-eaters may differ from those who don’t eat meat, or eat less, in a variety of ways that also influence health.

For example, vegetarians exercise more, smoke and drink less, and are more likely to be married than meat eaters. So we don’t know how large a factor eating meat plays in the omnivores dying six to nine years sooner than the vegetarians.

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The publication of a cluster of five systematic reviews in the same issue of the journal gives the impression of a major scientific breakthrough, but this is clearly not the case. It is puzzling that the journal would publish dietary guidelines developed by a self-appointed panel that are tantamount to promoting meat consumption, despite their own findings that high consumption is harmful to health. Of note, these recommendations are not based on consensus of the panel because three panel members actually voted against their own recommendations. Furthermore, among the 14 panel members, only two were listed as “nutritional scientists” while most others were listed as “methodologists.”

It should also be noted that the journal may have exacerbated the situation by circulating a press release entitled “New guidelines: No need to reduce red or processed meat consumption for good health.” Such sensational headlines can cause enormous confusion among health professionals, journalists, and the general public.


The confusion stems from people drawing unwarranted conclusions from observational studies.

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There a number of very well scientists who don’t think that the conclusions are unwarranted - I would argue that the people behind Nutrirecs are less established as many of the scientists who disagree with them - that doesn’t mean they could be right in the longer term but the data they present doesn’t really warrants their conclusions and is relatively weak.

There’s no experimental data showing that eating less meat will make you healthier or live longer.

It’s clear that vegetarians who exercise, don’t smoke, drink only in moderation, and get married live significantly longer than average, but we have no idea how much not eating meat contributes to that, if it does at all.

Copying multiple times the paragraph from that non-scientific blog doesn’t make your argument stronger - it is not much different than scientific evidence about global warming - there is no absolute proof but the majority of reputable scientists agree that the current body of scientific evidence clearly points towards significant human influence in global warming- similar to red meat consumption and increased occurrence of certain subtypes of cancer - the majority of scientists in that field see currently clear evidence of a link between those (some scientists disagree and a lot of non-scientists (who often see it as inconvenient to change any personal habits and so come up with non-scientific discussion points)

Copying what paragraph from what blog? I’m paraphrasing the famous Adventist Health Study-2.

The history of nutritional “science” in the US is largely drawing false conclusions from ambiguous observational studies resulting in bad advice. Eat partially hydrogenated vegetable fat, it’s better for you than butter or lard. Oh, sorry, it’s 16 times worse and no one should eat any of it ever. Don’t eat high-cholesterol foods such as eggs because they raise your cholesterol. Oops, sorry, actually that’s not how human biology works. Eat a low-fat diet to avoid heart disease. Damn, sorry about that, actually you should get a significant share of your calories from healthy fats and limit the kind and amount of carbohydrates.

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The plot thickens.

Not really.

“It wasn’t until I was on a conference call with them and people were introducing themselves where I realized this is not what I expected,” he said. “Then I saw the reaction from the paper we did publish, which I think was a very good paper. People didn’t get that message. They got stuck on the funding part. That was a big lesson to separate oneself. It’s not worth working with industry at all.”

He’s talking about working for Big Sugar in that quote. Not Big Meat. Look, I don’t know if the study is good, bad or indifferent, or if the researcher is bought and paid for, free and clear, or somewhere in between. Nor do I care, since I don’t eat meat at all, and haven’t since 1981. But it’s certainly worth considering the messenger in addition to the message.

He’s a guy who learned the hard way to be careful not to take funding from industry.

He also eats only one or two servings of meat a week.

I like this:

Dr. Guyatt noted that for 20 years he has been a pescatarian who eats only fish and no other meat. “Before I was involved in these systematic reviews and looking carefully at evidence, I had three reasons for not eating meat — animal welfare, the environment and health. Now I only have two reasons for not eating meat.”

My father lived to be 92 . His philosophy was going out to eat is what’s going to kill you . Always had a beautiful garden . He did like his cold cuts and some sweets. Walked every day . Moderation is best . Yes he drank also .