Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
14 Mar

Will Eating Red Meat Kill You?

This is another special guest post from our favorite study-dismantler, Denise Minger. Read all of her previous Mark’s Daily Apple articles here, here, here and here, pay her website a visit, and stay tuned for her upcoming book “Death by Food Pyramid” due out later this year.

We’re already 74 days into the new year, which can only mean one thing: it’s high time for our latest episode of Science Says Meat Will Kill You, complete with a brand new study and commercial-free viral media coverage! Have a seat and tune in (or at least set your DVR for later viewing).

If you haven’t had at least one family member, coworker, or soon-to-be-unfriended Facebook acquaintance send you this study as a reminder that you’re killing yourself, you’re either really lucky or your inbox is broken. Thanks to an observational study called Red Meat Consumption and Mortality freshly pressed in the Archives of Internal Medicine, a slew of bold headlines exploded across every conceivable media outlet this week:

Media sensationalism aside, the study does seem to spell trouble for proud omnivores. Unlike some similar publications we’ve seen on meat and mortality, this one says that red meat doesn’t just make you die of heart disease and cancer; it makes you die of everything. Following over 120,000 women and men from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professional’s Follow-up Study for 28 and 22 years respectively, researchers found that a single daily serving of unprocessed red meat was associated with a 13% increased risk of death from all causes, while a single serving of processed red meat—the equivalent of one hotdog—was associated with a 20% increased risk.

And in case that’s not enough to chew on, there’s more: the researchers waved their statistical wands and declared you could outrun death for a few more years by swapping red meat for so-called “healthier foods” like nuts, chicken, or whole grains. In fact, the researchers suggest that up to one in ten of the deaths that struck their study participants could’ve been prevented if everyone had kept their red meat intake under half a serving per day!

But if you’ve been hanging around the nutrition world for very long, you’ve probably realized by now that health according to the media and health according to reality are two very different things—and even scientific studies can be misrepresented by the researchers who conduct them. Is our latest “killer meat” scare a convincing reason to ditch red meat? Is it time to put a trigger lock on your lethal grass-fed beef when the young’uns are around? Or is there more to this story than meats the eye? (Sorry, I had to.)

Observations vs. Experiments

Before we even dig into what this study found, let’s address an important caveat that the media—and even the researchers, unless they were terribly misquoted—seem to be confused about. What we’ve got here is a garden-variety observational study, not an actual experiment where people change something specific they’re doing and thus make it possible to determine cause and effect. Observations are only the first step of the scientific method—a good place to start, but never the place to end. These studies don’t exist to generate health advice, but to spark hypotheses that can be tested and replicated in a controlled setting so we can figure out what’s really going on. Trying to find “proof” in an observational study is like trying to make a penguin lactate. It just ain’t happening… ever.

Nonetheless, the media blurbs—and even quotes from the scientists themselves—suggest this study has a major case of mistaken identity. The lead researcher Frank Hu claimed the study “provides clear evidence that regular consumption of red meat, especially processed meat, contributes substantially to premature death,” despite the fact that the study is innately incapable of providing such evidence. It’s as if someone pulled a Campbell on us. Only an actual experiment, with controls and manipulated variables, could start confirming causation.

But the study’s over-extrapolation isn’t really that surprising. A conclusive experiment is what every observational study secretly yearns to be, deep down in its confounder-riddled, non-randomized heart. And like pushy stage mothers, some researchers want their observational studies to be more talented and remarkable than they truly are—leading to the scientific equivalent of a four year old wobbling around in stilettos at a beauty pageant. Our study at hand is a perfectly decent piece of observational literature, but as soon as its authors (or the media) smear it with lipstick and make it sing Patsy Cline songs on stage, it’s all downhill from there.

Food Frequency Questionnaires: A Test of Superhuman Memory and Saint-like Honesty

To kick this analysis off, let’s take a look at how the study was actually conducted. As the researchers explain, all of the diet data came from a series of food frequency questionnaires (FFQs) that the study participants filled out once every four years, starting in the 1980s and ending in 2006. (If you’re feeling brave, you can read the questionnaire yourself (PDF) and try imagining how terribly the average, non-diet-conscious person might botch their responses.) The lifestyle and medical data came from additional questionnaires administered every two years.

The full text of our study offers some additional details (emphasis mine):

In each FFQ, we asked the participants how often, on average, they consumed each food of a standard portion size. There were 9 possible responses, ranging from “never or less than once per month” to “6 or more times per day.” Questionnaire items about unprocessed red meat consumption included “beef, pork, or lamb as main dish” (pork was queried separately beginning in 1990), “hamburger,” and “beef, pork, or lamb as a sandwich or mixed dish.” … Processed red meat included “bacon” (2 slices, 13 g), “hot dogs” (one, 45 g), and “sausage, salami, bologna, and other processed red meats” (1 piece, 28 g).

Notice that one of the foods listed under “unprocessed red meat”—and likely a major contributor to that category—is hamburger, the stuff fast-food dreams are made of. Although this study tracked whole grain intake, it didn’t track refined grain intake, so we know right away we can’t totally account for the white-flour buns wrapped around those burgers (or many of the other barely-qualifying-as-food components of a McDonald’s meal). And unless these cohorts were chock full of folks who deliberately sought out decent organic meat, it’s also worth noting that the unprocessed ground beef they were eating probably contained that delightful ammonia-treated pink slime that’s had conventional meat consumers in an uproar lately.

Next, we arrive at this little gem:

The reproducibility and validity of these FFQs have been described in detail elsewhere.

Ding ding, Important Thing alert! As anyone who’s spent much time on earth should know, expecting people to be honest about what they eat is like expecting one of those “Lose 10 pounds of belly fat” banners to take you somewhere other than popup-ad purgatory: the idealism is sweet and all, but reality has other plans.

And so it is with food frequency questionnaires. Ever since these questionnaires were first birthed unto the world, scientists have lamented their most glaring flaw: people tend to report what they think they should be eating instead of what actually goes into their mouth. And that’s on top of the fact that most folks can barely remember what they ate yesterday, much less what they’ve eaten over the past month or even the past year.

As a result, researchers compare the results of food frequency questionnaires with more accurate “diet records”—where folks meticulously weigh and record everything they eat for a straight week or two—to see how the data matches up. If we follow that last quote to the links it references, we end up at one of the validation reports for the food frequency questionnaire used with the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Here’s where it gets interesting:

Foods underestimated by the FFQs compared with the diet records (ie, the gold standard) included processed meats, eggs, butter, high-fat dairy products, mayonnaise and creamy salad dressings, refined grains, and sweets and desserts, whereas most of the vegetable and fruit groups, nuts, high-energy and low-energy drinks, and condiments were overestimated by the FFQs.

This shouldn’t come as a shocker if we consider human psychology. Unless we literally live in a cave, most of us are constantly inundated with messages about how high-fat dairy, meat, sweets, desserts, and anything delicious and creamy is going to either make us fat or give us a heart attack—while it’s more like hallowed be thy name for fruits and veggies. Is it any wonder that folks tend to under-report their intake of “bad” foods and over-report their intake of the good ones? Who wants to admit—in the terrifying permanency of a food questionnaire—that yes, they do bury their salad in half a cup of Hidden Valley Ranch, and they do choose white bread because 12-Grain Oroweat tastes like lightly sweetened wood chippings, and sometimes they even go a full three days where their only vegetable is ketchup? If food frequency questionnaires were hooked up to a polygraph, we might see some much different data (and some mysteriously disappearing respondents).

Another reference in our study du jour takes us to a validation report for the Nurses’ Health Study questionnaire. And here we find the same trend:

Mean daily amounts of each food calculated by the questionnaire and by the dietary record were also compared; the observed differences suggested that responses to the questionnaire tended to over-represent socially desirable foods.

Of course, if everyone over-reported or under-reported their food intake with the same magnitude of inaccuracy, we could still find some reliable associations between food questionnaires and health outcomes. But it turns out that how much someone fudges their food reporting—especially for specific menu items—varies wildly based on their personal characteristics. Using an Aussie-modified version of the Nurses’ Health Study questionnaire, a study from Australia measured how accurately people reported their food intake based on their gender, age, medical status, BMI, occupation, school-leaving age, and use of dietary supplements. Like with the other validation studies, it compared the results of the food frequency survey with the Almighty Weighed Food Record.

The surprising results? Folks with a “diagnosed medical condition”—including high cholesterol, high triglycerides, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, cancer, and heart disease—were much more likely to mis-report their meat consumption than folks without a diagnosed medical condition, generally overestimating their true intake on food frequency questionnaires compared to the weighed food record. Why this occurred is one of life’s great mysteries, but it might have something to do with the fact that people who develop diet- and lifestyle-related diseases pay less conscious attention to what they eat. (In this study, women were also more likely to inaccurately report their intake for a wide variety of foods—a phenomenon that’s been examined in greater depth by other researchers.)

So what does this mean for studies based on food frequency questionnaires, like the one currently hijacking the news outlets? Unfortunately for lovers of scientific accuracy, it means that meat consumption and modern diseases might be statistically more likely to show up hand-in-hand by mere fluke. If sick folks have a tendency—for whatever reason—to say they’re eating more meat than they really are, that’ll have profound effects on any diet-disease associations that turn up in observational studies, where correlations hinge so heavily on the accuracy of the data. And if the results of that Australian study are applicable not only in the Land Down Under but also in the Land Up Over, it could mean that meat is pretty much doomed to look guilty by association with disease whenever food frequency questionnaires are involved. Woe is meat!

Red-Meatophiles: A Species of Their Own

Now that our confidence in food frequency questionnaires should be thoroughly and disturbingly shattered, let’s hop back to the study in question. To gauge the effects of red meat consumption on mortality, the researchers for our Red Meat Consumption and Mortality study divided folks up into five quintiles based on their red meat intake. The first quintile represents the people who reported the fewest servings per day, while the fifth quintile represents the shameless red-meat gluttons who indulged in the most (or rather, reported indulging in the most). Luckily for us, the researchers provided a magical table of marvels comparing various diet and lifestyle variables between the quintiles. Please take a minute to look at it yourself and, if you feel so compelled, bask in its glory.

If you secretly suspected that this was a “people who eat red meat do a lot of unhealthy things that make them die sooner” study, you can now gloat.

Here are a few lifestyle variables I graph-ified for greater visual impact. (“Red Meat Intake” is measured in servings per day, and “Physical Activity” is measured in hours of metabolic equivalent tasks.)

As you can see, the folks eating the most red meat were also the least physically active, the most likely to smoke, and the least likely to take a multivitamin (among many other things you can spot directly in the table, including higher BMIs, higher alcohol intake, and a trend towards less healthy non-red-meat food choices). Although the researchers tried their darnedest to adjust for these confounders, not even fancy-pants math tricks can compensate for the immeasurable details involved in unhealthy living, the tendency for folks to misreport their diet and exercise habits, and whatever mild insanity emerges from trying to remember every food that hit your tongue during the past year.

And in case you didn’t spot them yet, our magical table has two particularly ogle-worthy things. The first one’s this:

If you had any doubt that people fib on food questionnaires, this should put your mind at ease. Take a look at the average (reported) calorie intake for the women in the first quintile of red meat consumption. Yes, that does say “1200 calories.” Yes, that is low enough to make most people wake themselves up at night as they unconsciously gnaw on their own arm in a quest for nourishment. And the red-meat-avoiding men aren’t much better, clocking in at a bit over 1600 calories for fully-grown adults. If there really is an 800-calorie gap between the folks with the lowest and highest red meat consumption, there’s obviously something much more significant going on in their diets than the color of their chosen animal foods. And if—in a much more likely scenario—there’s some major mis-reporting going on, that only bolsters the notion that we shouldn’t trust food frequency questionnaires any farther than we could throw ‘em.

Here’s the other ogle-worthy thing:

Ah, yes: here we see the folks eating the least red meat have the highest rates of elevated cholesterol, while the red-meat-indulgers have the lowest rates. Given the media’s eagerness to assign cause and effect to this study, it’s mighty strange none of the headlines proclaimed “Red meat reduces cholesterol!”

So What About This Death Stuff?

For those of you who hoped this analysis would completely obliterate any link the researchers found between red meat and “dying prematurely,” here’s the anticlimactic part. In the context of what’s ultimately wobbly, imperfect, and tragically inconclusive observational data, the researchers did find that the folks reporting the highest intake of red meat had slightly elevated rates of death from cardiovascular disease, cancer, and total mortality (though as we should know by now, correlation isn’t causation!). After adjusting for age and the other documented confounders, the association went down but didn’t disappear completely. (If you like staring at numbers, you can take a gander at the tables for all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease mortality, and cancer mortality to see how death risk changed between quartiles and with various statistical adjustments. And you can check out the lovely Zoe Harcombe’s parsing of the study if you’re craving an even geekier data safari.)

But there’s still more to the story.

Those numbers thrown around in the fear-mongering news clips—20% increased risk of death from all causes for processed meat and 13% increased risk of death from all causes for unprocessed meat—are classic examples of how even the most ho-hum findings can sound dramatic if you spin them the right way (and remember to attribute them to Hahhh-vard). If your risk of dying from a particular disease is 5% to start with, a “20% increased risk” only bumps you up to 6% in the grand scheme of things. That’s a lot less scary. Especially when delectable foods are involved.

Lessons From the Past

In case you’re skeptical that observational studies can run disturbingly contrary to reality, look no further than the hormone replacement therapy (HRT) craze that peaked a few decades ago. By 1991, 30 observational studiesincluding this one based on none other than the Nurses’ Health data—collectively showed that women taking estrogen seemed to have a 44% reduction in heart disease risk compared to their non-hormone-replacing counterparts. Naturally, this led literally millions of women to jump on the estrogen bandwagon in pursuit of better health and longer lives. A very unfortunate oopsie-daisy sprouted up later when some randomized, controlled trials finally emerged and revealed that rather than being protective, hormone replacement therapy actually increased heart disease risk by 29%!

Just like we see with red-meat avoiders versus red-meat indulgers, these observational studies showed that women using hormone therapy generally had healthier lifestyles than women who weren’t—including smoking less and exercising more. Their good lifestyle habits obscured the true effects of taking hormones, just as meat eaters’ bad lifestyle habits might obscure the true effects of eating red meat. Are we sure that a similar risk ratio flip-flop wouldn’t happen if we moved away from observational studies of meat consumption and towards infinitely more reliable randomized, controlled trials?

Until we actually have some studies like that, it’ll be impossible to know—but if history has any say in the matter, it’s a strong possibility. And while we patiently twiddle our thumbs waiting for those well-designed meat studies to start existing, we should keep in mind that humankind has survived a pretty doggone long time—in much more robust shape than most of us are today—without carefully swapping our lamb shanks for an equivalent serving of kidney beans.

Does Red Meat Make Bad Things Happen?

Since the very dawn of the taste bud, it seems red meat has been shrouded in mystique and evilness. Although the crumbling foundations of our anti-saturated-fat beliefs have partially redeemed meat and restored its throne on the dinner plate, red meat hasn’t quite escaped the stigma of being bad, even if we can’t totally pinpoint why. Is there a valid reason to avoid it?

Assuming you’ve nixed nitrite-laden processed meats and seek out higher-quality animal parts, one of the biggest legitimate dangers with red meat has more to do with preparation methods than the meat itself. High-temperature cooking—like pan-frying or grilling to the point of well-doneness—can create mutagens called heterocyclic amines (among other nefarious compounds) that may potentially contribute to cancer. Although the research here isn’t totally conclusive yet, it’s probably wise to stick with gentler cooking methods as often as possible (or better yet, learn to love steak tartare).

In Conclusion

Although the wildfire-esque media coverage of this study is enough to make any omnivore feel like punching Al Gore for ever inventing the internet, it’s actually a great opportunity to test our critical thinking skills and explore the unending deficiencies of observational studies—including the self-reported data they’re often built from. We might not emerge with any newfound health guidance after breaking down bad science, but it’s always nice to have a better understanding of what the tumultuous world of research is really saying.

And with that, our latest installment of Science Says Meat Will Kill You has come to a close. But worry not: this is just the beginning of an exciting new season of food drama. Will the butter defeat the margarine in their upcoming oil-wrestling contest? Will the asparagus discover who really killed her uncle’s stepdaughter’s boyfriend’s roommate’s poodle’s groomer? Tune in next week to find out!*

*Episode may or may not actually air

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Thanks, Mark! It seemed like a bunch of balogna when I read the article. I love my steak and don’t plan to give it up anytime soon.

    wendy wrote on March 14th, 2012
    • Wow, such an amazing dismantling of really bad “science.” I loved the part on the news where we were supposed to “replace one serving of red meat with fish, poultry, low-fat dairy, or WHOLE GRAINS!” Anyway, glad there are people like Mark and Denise out there. Great article!

      Barbara wrote on March 14th, 2012
      • Yes, and especially after the horse meat scandal and after this new study from the University of Oxford has found that the risk of heart disease, the biggest killer in the UK, is 32 per cent lower in vegetarians than people who eat meat and fish.

        Pavel wrote on October 15th, 2013
    • Very good article except no-one mentions that a previous study (in 2009) already showed a “MODEST increase of mortality from increased intake of red meat”
      Interestingly enough, processed meat food had a lesser impact which already tells U there was something wrong with the stats.
      Clearly no attention was paid to the source of red meat (grass fed being rare and more expensive most of the data was on grain-fed, antibiotic loaded animals).
      I am not on Paleo Diet: I do eat Grass-fed beef, free-range chicken and a lot of sprouted grain bread.
      Will see “from observation” how old I am when I die.

      Crispy wrote on March 14th, 2012
      • I’d like to see not just if its organic red meat, but HOW the meat was prepared i.e. rare or well done and at what temperature. Those factors can have an impact on chemical release on non-organic type meats.

        Sid wrote on March 15th, 2012
        • I was in Buenos Aires where you get nothing but grass-fed beef and no hormones – meat was incredible – could cut it with a fork – the other difference was the smell of beef there was mouth-watering – the smell of beef here in States has a bad odor or smell –

          jsteinhauer wrote on March 18th, 2012
        • @jsteinhauer:

          You were most likely hustled. Fact: Argentina is the second largest producer of organic grass-fed beef in the world. Fact: None of it is available to the local consumer.

          More info:

          Red wrote on March 11th, 2013
    • Like a proverbial wrecking ball through the wall of mis-information we are fed day-in-day-out. Isn’t it funny that BEFORE I went Primal I could not stomach red meat….but now I can take it, enjoy it as part of a healthy lifestyle, and benefit from it geatly. Thanks Mark

      Adrian wrote on March 15th, 2012
    • Mark, Great job and looking deeper into this study.

      Staying Primal.

      Barry Brown wrote on March 15th, 2012
  2. Bravo!!!

    Harry Mossman wrote on March 14th, 2012
  3. Great analysis Denise! I’ve been getting emails about this and will now just send them your article!

    Katie wrote on March 14th, 2012
  4. Heterocyclic amines. Ha! Mumbo-jumbo…What did they use? The Ames test, which is too sensitive anyway? C’mon!

    Cancer: Joe jackson: Here are the lyrics…

    S Andrei Ostric wrote on March 14th, 2012
    • Not sure why the skepticism on heterocyclic amines; even the author herself recommended sticking to gentler cooking methods, and the link to the site isn’t denouncing eating red meat, just cooking it differently. It even says there’s more research to be done.

      Kiko Rex wrote on March 16th, 2012
  5. One of the things I thought interesting about the study was that interaction effects were not included in the authors’ models, particularly given the interaction between risk behaviors and other behaviors, exercise having a somewhat protective effect for smokers for example. My suspicion, critical as I tend to be concerning most research, is that interactions were not included in order to preserve the small effect observed for red meat consumption.

    Erik wrote on March 14th, 2012
    • That could very well be the case. Or a more benign reason is that the authors did not want to over-adjust the model.

      But my hunch is that your hunch is on to something.

      Kamal Patel wrote on March 14th, 2012
    • I think you are right on the money. That is, you see behind the study and you see the money.

      Most studies parameters are set based on who is paying for the study, and researchers can predict which parameters will show but certainly not prove the desired results.

      Drinking in moderation is good for you.

      Says Who?

      Research funded by Anheuser Busch, perhaps?

      Matthew Caton wrote on March 14th, 2012
      • I’m wondering why the Beef Industry hasn’t funded a controlled clinical study instead of suing Oprah. Of course, we wouldn’t e happy with that unless they included grass fed beef and the would “nevah”!

        Denise, GREAT FUNNY precise analysis. How many times will a reinterpretation of the same study be discredited until it is thrown on the fiction rack?

        Be wrote on March 14th, 2012
  6. Good article

    Doug wrote on March 14th, 2012
  7. Thanks Denise for another great breakdown! Someone has to keep telling the truth when everyone is trying to sell snake oil.

    sigh… I loathe all mainstream media sources right now…

    Steven Wright wrote on March 14th, 2012
  8. Happy to see this study get the Minger treatment!

    Jules wrote on March 14th, 2012
  9. I love smiles with my science.

    Karen P. wrote on March 14th, 2012
  10. Just read the CNN article yesterday about how red meat will kill you dead… This post is a nice breath of fresh air.

    Abel James wrote on March 14th, 2012
    • You may all follow Denise to the onset of cancer and heart disease. Vegan is the only sure way to live long.

      Vegan wrote on June 16th, 2012
      • I think your wrong you Vegan. The only reasons I’ve seen people go vegan is that they feel sorry for the animals or listen to everything they read on the news! Go research traditional diets or hunter-gatherers and tell me that they’re sick.

        Michael wrote on June 19th, 2012
      • You have absolutely no decent evidence to support this.

        Craig cousineau wrote on November 14th, 2013
  11. Thank you Denise and Mark. I go to (Denise’s website) to review some of her stuff semi-regularly. Her debunking of the China Study was just terrific. She took apart Campbell’s analysis bit by bit and did it with an entertaining witty style, much like she displayed in this article. Great stuff.

    Mario Vachon wrote on March 14th, 2012
  12. This is phenomenal. Thank you Denise, I’m so sick of everyone telling me how deadly red meat is these past few days!

    Burn wrote on March 14th, 2012
    • The real question regarding red meat is, what else are these people eating? God forbid that anyone should even think that heavy consumption of grains (bread, cereal, pasta, pastries, etc.) might be contributing to obesity, illness and early demise.

      As a late poster here and a former sweets and refined flour junkie now in glowing good health, I have to admit I eat a LOT of fresh (not processed) red meat–steak, pot roast, prime rib… I love it and have no intention of giving it up, even though just yesterday someone was telling me how bad it is for the body (while she was gobbling slice after slice of bread).

      What’s hard to understand is how grain products ever became such a sacred cow when they can be pinpointed as the culprit in a number of diseases. I guess the answer lies in the fact that mainstream nutritional standards are usually at least a decade behind the latest research.

      Shary wrote on June 9th, 2012
  13. Thank you for this!! Now sharing on FB.

    lisa wrote on March 14th, 2012
    • Same here, sharing on google plus! Please make a community on google plus Marks!

      Senea Iva wrote on March 17th, 2014
  14. Oh the power of sensationalist media. I laughed at how many news websites had articles relating to death from red meat yesterday. Those articles are a good thing; they keep prices down.

    Thomas Steinhauser wrote on March 14th, 2012
  15. denise is the bomb. JS at took this apart as well. he also comments on these “scientific headlines” and how to deal with them generally. also a great post.

    mark, you have some great friends!

    daniel wrote on March 14th, 2012
  16. Great post. I think I will cook a steak tonight!

    Mark wrote on March 14th, 2012
  17. Wish you hadn’t written this. I was hoping the price of red meat would go down.

    Michael McAlister wrote on March 14th, 2012
    • +1

      Chris wrote on March 14th, 2012
    • Reminds me of the dozens of cheap cantaloupes I ate last year shortly after the Rocky Ford ordeal.

      JC wrote on March 14th, 2012
    • My thoughts exactly! To me the article said grass-fed beef about to get cheaper.

      Vicky wrote on March 14th, 2012
    • same thought here

      DThalman wrote on March 16th, 2012
  18. If this study were true, then my three year old would be in danger of death any day now. He hates chicken and fish, and only eats cow. His dinner every night? Meatsauce, stew (meat only), roast or steak. At least I know his iron isn’t low.

    Ruth wrote on March 14th, 2012
    • Your son needs some vegetables!!

      bob wrote on March 15th, 2012
      • Not really that important. He’ll eat more eventually.

        Craig cousineau wrote on November 14th, 2013
  19. Quite a good article-love the humor in it as well. Thanks for the information.

    Laurie Whalen wrote on March 14th, 2012
  20. Great analysis of the study. I really appreciate all of the links so we can see the data for ourselves. As someone who works in science, I am keenly aware of the attempts of the media to take a study and try and fit it in to a 30 second message. Somehow it never does come across in its entirety. Thanks for the info and work to make us all better educated.

    Courtney wrote on March 14th, 2012
  21. Concise, cogent, humorous as always, Denise. Cheers!

    Finnegans Wake wrote on March 14th, 2012
  22. I was pretty sure this was all hooey. Thanks for the verification!

    Sanctus Real wrote on March 14th, 2012
  23. As always Mark, another well-researched and thorough article. Great read, I was wondering when you were going to attack these studies!

    Clinton Warren wrote on March 14th, 2012
    • Ummm… Mark didn’t write this. It’s a guest post from Denise Minger. Not trying to nitpick, just assure that credit is given where due.

      Trav wrote on March 14th, 2012
  24. Thanks for this, because I will admit to having been spooked by the new “news.”

    SoFla wrote on March 14th, 2012
  25. “Trying to find “proof” in an observational study is like trying to make a penguin lactate. It just ain’t happening… ever.”

    I rarely get to read prose this good…and educational.

    Thank you Denise!

    Mark wrote on March 14th, 2012
    • Yeah, and one wonders why they never actually do the controlled studies afterwards. It seems all about generating media brouhaha. Are these researchers paid per google hit or what?

      Carole wrote on August 31st, 2012
  26. That opening paragraph under “Observations vs. Experiments” section is almost word for word the opening I used when a coworker brought this up this morning. Minus the lactating penguin…

    Needless to say, I proceeded to lay a fairly nerdy smackdown.

    Chris wrote on March 14th, 2012
  27. We love Denise!

    NWPrimate wrote on March 14th, 2012
  28. WOW, so good.

    Monique wrote on March 14th, 2012
  29. A round of T-Bones for everyone!

    Dennis wrote on March 14th, 2012
  30. According to these scientists, humanity became extinct about two and a half million years ago, when we came down from the trees and gave up a mostly frugivorous diet in favour of a mostly carnivorous one. As for the North American Plain Indians (just to give one example of hunter-gatherers) who lived mostly of buffalo meat? Well, they never existed. 

    Ricardo wrote on March 14th, 2012
    • Exactly. Denise is being too nice in trying to explain why there might be any risk to red meat. I say there’s none at all, and that we’ve got entirely too many unhealthy things going on that ARE killing us to be giving up something that *isn’t*.

      Dana wrote on March 14th, 2012
      • well said!

        MBrando wrote on March 23rd, 2012
    • AGREE!!!

      MBrando wrote on March 23rd, 2012
  31. Denise, you ARE Wonder Woman!

    (So you all know, miss Minger saved me from a life, or at least a misinformed foray into Forks over Knives…ugh, I have to even say it…Vegetarianism!!!)

    But seriously, thank you for being so quick to cut this ‘latest study’ to the quick.

    Dano442 wrote on March 14th, 2012
  32. Nice article! Another pointless conclusion based on weak “study” DEBUNKED.

    Julian wrote on March 14th, 2012
  33. Thank you! Great info as usual. I was wondering who would address this and sure enough, this blog did! Appreciate all your info.

    MnPaleoGirl wrote on March 14th, 2012
  34. Awesome. Ever since this latest study broke all over the internets with the accompanying sensational headlines, I’ve been waiting for an MDA article to take it apart and give it a good, rational examination. And I was not disappointed. Thank you!

    Ann wrote on March 14th, 2012
  35. Denise rocks!

    My sister informed me of this study yesterday. I’ll just have to point her to here!

    Primal Toad wrote on March 14th, 2012
  36. I was gnawing on homemade beef jerky as I read this!

    becky wrote on March 14th, 2012
  37. Fine, more left for me!

    Tasha wrote on March 14th, 2012
  38. “…Is like trying to make a penguin lactate.”

    That was pretty funny. Thanks for the breakdown. I love to read them.

    Alison Golden wrote on March 14th, 2012
  39. Mark

    Millions kudos to you for doing all this work!

    I personally concluded that the scientific method is plain wrong for something so holistic as homo sapiens and his biology/physiology. By scientific methods, you might very easily conclude that (pardon my French) shit is full of minerals, so you should regularly eat shit.
    I am fully convinced that what really matters is the evolutionary approach, holistic approach and wisdom of ancestors (e.g. in game, go for internal organs, then fat, then muscles).

    Jan Rendek wrote on March 14th, 2012

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

© 2016 Mark's Daily Apple

Subscribe to the Newsletter and Get a Free Copy
of Mark Sisson's Fitness eBook and more!