The LA Times published this article today in which the headline reads: All Red Meat is Bad For You, New Study Says. It essentially makes the statement that eating red meat of any kind in any amount will cause premature death. It’s become pretty big on the google trends as well. I’ve been talking with a few people on facebook and at work today about this but I felt like I had more to say rather than a couple lines here or there. So I’ll voice my opinion here as well.
It seems like every so called journalist got wind of the story and decided to put their own spin on it. The problem is, it’s spotty science at best. I’m pretty sure a middle school science fair winner will have more scientific merit than the ‘study’ these series of articles are based on. The study fails to acknowledge the fact that the people who are dying younger or more prematurely also: smoke, don’t exercise or take any sort of care of themselves to begin with. You can find the study published here, in the Archives of Internal Medicine at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston .
“Men and women with higher intake of red meat were less likely to be physically active and were more likely to be current smokers, to drink alcohol, and to have a higher body mass index (Table 1). In addition, a higher red meat intake was associated with a higher intake of total energy but lower intakes of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.”
Another thing I’d like to point out is the manner of which the data was collected. Each subject filled out a food questionnaire themselves relating to what they ate that was updated every four years. How is it expected that each subject will remember exactly what they ate everyday over the course of four years? So in that aspect alone, the data collected can’t really be taken as sound evidence.
The scientific community sees things like this and immediately scoffs at it. The problem really is that mainstream ‘scare tactic’ media knows that this will get people in an uproar and report on anything that will get a reaction whether there are facts or not. And that’s where we get headlines like this. Sadly, more people are apt to believe this nonsense rather than take two extra seconds to think about the parameters in which the study was conducted.
A friend of mine sent me this link which contains an article about how bad red meat is for you in pretty much the same vein as the Times article, but it also had this podcast interview with the author of this so called scientific study, as well as a Dietician and Nutritional Professor from Cal State Long Beach all speaking about the legitimacy of this study. An Pan, was asked point blank whether he was able to determine that red meat was the cause of any premature deaths in the study and he admitted that any deaths were merely a correlation but none were proven to be caused by red meat consumption.
The mere fact that he admitted that there was no proof found whatsoever that red meat consumption causes early death, just goes to show that this prestigious piece of science should immediately be re studied with more variables involved. Otherwise, it just proves there is a correlation for this specific study only. It doesn’t prove causation. Logic like this is a perfect example of one of my favorite analogies that I first heard from Mat LaLonde (also over at Harvard btw): “As ice cream sales go up, the number of deaths caused by drownings also increase, therefore, ice cream consumption increases your risk for drowning. Whereas, if you look at the bigger picture, as ice cream sales increase, the hotter it gets outside so more people go swimming, thus, more drownings occur.”
The podcast was open to callers as well, and even vegetarians called in to point out that there was no distinction between different types of red meat. Grass fed, organic, free range, traditional, lean cuts, fatty cuts etc. These were also concerns voiced by the two nutrition experts as well. I wonder what the study results would look like if that were taken into account, but sadly, they weren’t. It only goes to show that most people are interested in treating the symptom of something rather than finding the true cause. In the end I guess I can look forward to more quality grass fed red meat for me!