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Harvard Says Last Night's Prime Rib Will Kill Me - Harvard Red Meat Study

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  • Harvard Says Last Night's Prime Rib Will Kill Me - Harvard Red Meat Study

    Well, here's the press release on the latest Harvard red meat study:
    Red Meat Consumption Linked to Increased Risk of Total, Cardiovascular, and Cancer Mortality

    I've got a copy of the original paper and I've skimmed it, but I'll have to do more than that to understand what it says. I wish I could have the data to work with, but I don't know if it's available.

    Just at a glance, however, I feel a little lost. The authors divided the subjects into five groups based on red meat consumption and the group that ate the most red meat had the highest mortality rate from cardiovascular disease and cancer. The paper separates processed and non-processed red meat and finds that processed red meat is "more dangerous" than non-processed, but not by much.

    Looking at the first chart in the paper, I notice that among the differences in groups, there's a preponderance of other risk factors found in the high-meat-eating group including a higher daily calorie intake, higher BMI and greater likelihood for smoking. The authors say they've corrected for all of these factors. (The closest I ever came to a statistics course was making out with a math major. Actually, I'm not sure she was really a math major, but she did have a calculator!)

    One of the most interesting data points I'd like to see is daily grain and sugar consumption, but I don't see that anywhere. (Could have missed it.) They do list daily whole grain consumption (and it goes down toward the high red meat end of the spectrum) but nothing I can see about grains overall, or sugars. Also, I notice the likelihood of "high cholesterol" goes down when red meat consumption goes up. Hmm.

    I confess that if the author's conclusion had been that red meat lowers risk of chronic-disease-based mortality, I'd be less motivated to read so closely. Be that as it may, I don't want to dismiss important work out of hand because I'd like it to reach a more palatable conclusion. Okay, actually, I do want to, but I'm not going to. That's not what our movement is about. Not how I practice it, anyway.

    Has anyone else read the paper?
    Any thoughts on what's in there to care about?


  • #2
    look at the earlier thread...
    Correlation != causation
    Primal since March 2011

    Female/29 years old/5' 1"/130ish lbs


    • #3
      Where are the studies on plying our children with grain-rich cereals as soon as they wake?

      The studies against meat are probably funded by Kelloggs, they believe we should be eating coco-pops with every meal.


      • #4
        I have no interest in actually reading the study but I'd love it if you'd share your results.

        As for me, I feel so much better eating this way -if I live 10 years less and I enjoy my life more because I have more energy and zest for life, screw it. Bring on the bacon!


        • #5
          First, here is the link to the full paper.

          Arch Intern Med -- Red Meat Consumption and Mortality: Results From 2 Prospective Cohort Studies, March 12, 2012, Pan et al. 0 (2012): archinternmed.2011.2287v1

          AS for your questions, from the paper:

          "Additional adjustment for other foods (fish, poultry, nuts, beans, and dairy products) or nutrients (glycemic load, cereal fiber, magnesium, and polyunsaturated and trans fatty acids) did not appreciably alter the results. Additional adjustment for saturated fat and cholesterol moderately attenuated the association between red meat intake and risk of CVD death, and the pooled HR (95% CI) dropped from 1.16 (1.12-1.20) to 1.12 (1.07-1.18)."

          AS for how the adjustments were calculated, and what was used as a base glycemic load, that seems to be excluded from the paper.


          • #6
            I haven't read the article, but I do recall articles talking about how one cooks the red meat can make the meat more dangerous. I do believe that the quantity can still make a difference though, especially considering that Americans on average are not physically active. Eating a lot of red meat plus being no more than moderately active can make for a more dangerous combination, IMO. If you are active on a daily basis, there's less of an effect from meat consumption. I am sure there were studies that compared inactive people and active people on Atkins, and the inactive people suffered more health problems.

            Same thing can be true of people who eat carbs; active people do better than inactive people.

            So yeah, there's a lot of factors, and no single study will go over that many factors.


            • #7
              I did find the compiled data here:


              What I find interesting, and did not seem to find an explanation, was the HUGE difference in results between the two studies used. The conclusions were made from the pool of both studies, but the studies themselves differentiated sometimes by more that 700%.

              Frankly, the entire study is very weak.


              • #8
                i'm not jumping on the 'correlation means nothing' bandwagon, but this study was based on asking people to fill out surveys about how they eat, once every four years. is it shocking to me that among the general population (who pay no attention to their diet), those that eat red meat have health problems? no, we've had it hammered in to our heads that to be healthy, you should avoid red meat - so those that aim to live a healthy lifestyle have generally avoided it. this study is more about statistics than science. there's no real scientific testing involved. just asking people to report what they have eaten for the past four years, several times over. that's not exactly air tight, and to me, not even persuasive.


                • #9
                  Red meat is fine, when it's actually red (slightly bloody)... its charred black meat which is carcinogenic IMO.


                  • #10

                    Red meat & mortality & the usual bad science


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by xntrik View Post
                      Primal since March 2011

                      Female/29 years old/5' 1"/130ish lbs


                      • #12

                        My son and I had a closer look at the paper last night and discovered much of the same things as Zoe.

                        Thanks all!


                        • #13
                          "Always Be Skeptical Of Nutrition Headlines: Or, What “Red Meat Consumption and Mortality” (Pan Really Tells Us"
                          Always Be Skeptical Of Nutrition Headlines: Or, What “Red Meat Consumption and Mortality” (Pan Really Tells Us - GNOLLS.ORG

                          received above in my inbox this morning