Harvard seems like a pretty reputable institution. This week they came out with the results of a study that “proved” that eating red meat will increase your chance of dying, and eating processed red meat (i.e.; hot dogs) even more so.
But then there are the naysayers, those who say the study is flawed. How exactly could one do an unflawed study on this subject? Take 120,000 ten year old children, tell 60,000 of them that they can’t eat red meat for the next 40 years, tell the other 60,000 to eat lots of red meat for the next 40 years, and check back with them when they are 50. See how many have died. I don’t think that would work.
This study followed 120,000 subjects, who were all health care professionals, for 24 years and they sent in their food reports every four years. I can’t remember what I had for breakfast yesterday let alone four years ago. I suppose they were supposed to be keeping good notes all along, but how do we know they were? Well, they are health care professionals, so maybe we can assume they kept precise records.
Over the course of those 24 years, 24,000 subjects died. More red meat eaters died than non red meat eaters.
The actual numbers are a 13% increase in the rate of death if you eat one daily serving of red meat (the size of a deck of cards, which is about the size of a regular hamburger), and a 20% increase if you eat one daily serving of processed red meat (which is two slices of bacon or one hot dog).
This makes total sense to me, and to those of us who don’t eat red meat. We’ve known for quite some time that meat is not a healthy food and should not be eaten often.
However, the meat industry did not like Harvard’s study:
The findings were challenged by Dr Carrie Ruxton from the Meat Advisory Panel (MAP), an expert body funded by the meat industry.
She said: ‘This US study looked at associations between high intakes of red meat and risk of mortality, finding a positive association between the two. However, the study was observational, not controlled, and so cannot be used to determine cause and effect.
‘The authors’ conclusion that swapping a portion of red meat for poultry or fish each week may lower mortality risk was based only on a theoretical model. This conflicts with evidence from controlled trials.’
Dr Ruxton pointed out that meat and meat products were significant sources of essential nutrients such as iron, zinc, selenium, B vitamins and vitamin D.
Yes, and we can’t get our essential nutrients anywhere else?
I recently found out about a wonderful website, nutritionfacts.org, written by Dr. Michael Greger. He has so much information on his website, and lots of videos. These videos are actually very interesting, not like sitting through organic chemistry in high school. Here is his take on the Harvard study. And check out his 2 minute video about red meat and mortality, which was published over a year ago.
There will always be people who don’t believe the studies, particularly those people who stand to lose financially, and they can put any spin they want on these studies. What will it take to get people to change?