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?

redmeatThis 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.)

health professionals lifestyle graph nurses health lifestyle graph

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:

calorie graph

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:

high cholesterol graph

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. Here’s a 3/14/12 article from the NYT about meat consumption and heart disease:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/13/health/research/red-meat-linked-to-cancer-and-heart-disease.html

    Beth wrote on March 14th, 2012
    • That’s the exact same study Denise refutes in this post.

      Finnegans Wake wrote on March 15th, 2012
  2. Thanks so much for posting this. I saw a clip on the news with this “study” and INSTANTLY thought of MDA and wondered if(when) it would be proven wrong.
    Thanks again for keeping things real and giving us solid, good information instead of sensationalist crap.

    Jenni wrote on March 14th, 2012
  3. What a beautifully written article. Plodding through this sort of info is often a drag – not this time!! Enjoyable and educational.

    Papster wrote on March 14th, 2012
  4. Thanks Denise! This study was reported here in Brazil yesterday on Jornal Nacional (the most famous and watched television news program around) and part of my family panicked. And the show was like 1 minute long, just saying that if you eat red meat you have a 13% higher chance of death.

    This article is everything I need to avoid to eat my family meat this week :)

    Juliano wrote on March 14th, 2012
  5. Reading the “red meat causes death” articles was making my blood pressure rise. Such great logic and humor in this refutation. Can’t wait to get Denise’s book!

    Sam wrote on March 14th, 2012
  6. Every person should be required to take at least one statistics course and one research design course, just so they can stop getting duped by the media. I knew this was a hunk o’ junk when I first read “red meat” and “death” together in the headlines. What a bunch of bologna (literally!)!!!

    Taylor wrote on March 14th, 2012
  7. If you read down to the very bottom of the third linked article (from Sky.com), you might just spot this little nugget of wisdom: “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.”

    So, the ACTUAL evidence from real experiments says the opposite, but we are going with our wild hypothesis anyway. I love modern science, really I do.

    gcb wrote on March 14th, 2012
  8. Wow… Very exhaustive article… Love it! Thanks Mark!!

    Félix Boissonneault wrote on March 14th, 2012
  9. Nice recap and perspective here by Denise. She’s brilliant with the data.

    I think a big point it “observational vs experiment” study. Kind of anxious to read the study in detail to gain more insight on this and consider the loopholes.

    This definitely adds to consumer nutrition “confusion,” without a doubt.

    Thanks!

    Scott wrote on March 14th, 2012
  10. I read this ‘study’ when it came out and the first thing I noticed is that they used the terms ‘processed meat’ and ‘red meat’ interchangeably. They are not the same thing. That ‘study’ is deeply flawed and should be ignored.

    Zusiqu wrote on March 14th, 2012
  11. I am a Paleo Crossfit Grandma and Ive lost 79lbs. in the last year.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOFygWet580
    These are my blood results so far…
    Cholesterol went down again. (Orig. it was 203, then 175 and now 165. The HDL is 54 (good is above 39) and the LDL is 102 down from 128 (I need to get that all the way down below 100 so Im almost there! This doesnt surprise me since Im still almost 30lbs. over weight.) The nurse looked at my tests and just said WOW….My triglycerides are 43 (norm is between 0-149) My calcium (remember I dont eat dairy anymore) is up again. Originaly 8.6, then 8.9 and now 9.0.(norm is 8.7-10.2). So bring it on all you studies that say stay away from Red Meat, My blood tests begs to differ and blood tests don’t lie.

    Lisa Such wrote on March 14th, 2012
  12. I’m just guessing, but I’m imagining that health-conscious people who eat beef are rare. Vegetarians are probably a large number, then there people who eat boneless skinless chicken breasts and only the mucous part of the egg, then there are the SAD who actually adhere to the FDA serving size. Each group individually would probably dwarf the grain-avoiders, sorry but I think paleo is still pretty fringe.

    Just that there is a noticeable jump in processed vs unprocessed makes me think that the most of the unhealthy red-meat eaters are eating fast food. A good portion of the rest might be tucking into a 20-oz special with good marbling and extra salt, a side of fries, and not even parsley for color.

    Kelekona wrote on March 14th, 2012
  13. I’ve been watching the news over the last few days and I was hoping there’d be a response here – of course you never fail to impress!

    I know nobody who would point these news articles out to me would read this post, but it’s nice to be able to respond in a quip:

    “That entire study was based on an observational study and not a scientific experiment. Now pass the pork chops.”

    Brent wrote on March 14th, 2012
  14. I have a goulash in the 10 hour slow cooker right now with 3lbs of grass-fed beef from a local farm along with a nice big shin bone in the middle for some marrow. Braised the meat in pasture butter, included plenty of onions, garlic, org green peppers and some other veggies. I can smell the paprika simmering as I work at my standing desk in my office at home. My wife and I will tuck into this with a nice glass of malbec right after I finish lifting a few heavy things after work.

    Seriously think I care much for what this study says?

    Thanks Denise, I love when you deconstruct the nonsense.

    Tim wrote on March 14th, 2012
  15. Thank you! Why these journals aren’t doing this job yet preserving their prestige is beyond me. This is the job peer review is supposed to do! But, I guess, if all your “peers” are feeding at the same trough of half-baked publication/grant/publication/grant cycles, what can you expect? As always, one only has to ask, “Who benefits?”

    slacker wrote on March 14th, 2012
  16. The thing that always makes me laugh about this sort of study is the the vast majority always include the phrase “increases your risk of death”. I’m sorry, but isn’t our risk of death already 100%??? Last time I checked, I wasn’t immortal. That thought always makes me chuckle through the red, hot anger I feel reading about garbage studies like this one. Thanks for this great article!!

    Bianca wrote on March 14th, 2012
  17. Great article. Of course, being the militant girl that I am, I watched that news story while sucking down a nicely marbled steak with a sweet potato last night.

    Trishie wrote on March 14th, 2012
  18. Great analysis!

    As with any epidemiological study you cant establish causality. And this is the classic case of attempting to do just that. This is what Ancel Keys did with his 7 countries study and this is what these “experts” are hoping to do here. We are still paying the price for Keys and hopefully if the media continues to propagate this we will pay the price for this one as well. To quote Joesph Goebbels: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it”

    Yogesh wrote on March 14th, 2012
  19. Oh come on! This study has its flaws (possible unknown confounders paired with a relatively low measure of effect, the unreliability of the food frequency questionnaire, etc.), but your dismissal of observational studies is just ridiculous. By your logic, we have never proved that smoking causes lung cancer in humans because we have never had a randomized controlled trial to demonstrate it. Tell me, how would you even design an RTC to exam the relationship between red meat consumption and mortality over a 12 year period?

    facet wrote on March 14th, 2012
    • Right on, facet. Some of the comments under this piece are ludicrous. Remember that Big Tobacco used some of the exact same criticisms of cohort studies to try and delay smoking regulation. Big Pharma are guilty of similar tactics. Confirmation bias can afflict everyone- not just those on the “other side”. These studies have their place.

      AJaY wrote on March 14th, 2012
    • The fact that you can’t DO a study does not mean a study you could do “proves” anything. We haven’t “proven” cigarettes cause cancer, or everyone who smokes would get it. (Scientific method would add the reverse is NOT claimable – the fact that folks who don’t smoke get lung cancer says nothing about cigs causing — or being strongly associated with — lung cancer.

      There’s a difference between your objection:”dismissal of observational studies” and the wise-and-wonderful Denise pointing our their inability to “prove” that (wrongly defined) “red meat” causes a raised “risk of death.” (that would be, as pointed out in the comments, a risk of death ABOVE 100%?!)

      (Interesting math…)

      Elenor wrote on March 14th, 2012
      • The correlation between cigarette smoking and lung cancer is unbelievably strong compared to the correlation implied in the meat study being analyzed here, and with far fewer apparent confounders. I believe the cigarette correlation is approximately 100x stronger that what is being argued for meat in the study Denise has criticized – perhaps even higher than that.

        Mario Vachon wrote on March 15th, 2012
        • Exactly, Mario. Well said.

          The smoking comparison is a straw man.

          Finnegans Wake wrote on March 15th, 2012
  20. Brilliant! Thank you!

    You can always look on the bright side of all this – it keeps the prices down for us! :)

    Selena wrote on March 14th, 2012
  21. How can people even consider something as uncontrolled as a test like that science? To me it means nothing unless the same source of meat ( or anything else for that matter ) is provided to all and everyone eats a specified and provided diet. And reporting every 4 years? Even if you ignore the circumstances, you can probably stop reading at that point.

    Shawn wrote on March 14th, 2012
  22. I have to admit, I don’t watch or read the news, so I hadn’t heard about this “study”. But thank you Denise for taking the time to set the record straight and totally debunking, yet another attempt, to villainize red meat (my spell check wanted to change villainize to Vulcanize!! LOL).

    I also hadn’t seen the story about pink slime. That is beyond disgusting! We have been talking about buying a meat grinder to make our own ground meat and sausages and this has made up my mind to do so immediately!

    Carol wrote on March 14th, 2012
    • This one: “Waring MG-800 Pro Professional Meat Grinder, Brushed Stainless Steel” is superb! I’ve had it since 2010, and it’s wonderful. (Relatively) easy to clean — the fine-grinder cutting wheel is a bit difficult to get clean — but it’s worth the work!

      Elenor wrote on March 14th, 2012
  23. Wonderful article! Great facts, great argument. Bravo!

    Elizabeth R wrote on March 14th, 2012
  24. Correlation does not equal causation. Period. No ifs ands or buts. And true researchers, not fad-chasing grant writers know this to be true.

    Rob wrote on March 14th, 2012
  25. Amazing Denise.

    You’ve got quite the critical eye!

    MIke

    mike wrote on March 14th, 2012
  26. I heard about this study on the news yesterday, made me so angry I was talking out loud to the news people from my car :o) So happy to see this article – thanks!

    Shavonne wrote on March 14th, 2012
  27. This explains why I’m not dead after living on strip lion for that last week, YAY.

    is death even a good metric , it’s going to happen red meat or not.

    alex wrote on March 14th, 2012
    • One more thing our ancestors didn’t have to deal with , mainstream media…
      “everything that makes you happy, IS KILLING YOU!!!”

      “Oops , it’s all ok in moderation. ”

      Breaking news: “Moderation is killing you!”

      alex wrote on March 14th, 2012
  28. I was a vegetarian for about 20 years. I felt great at first, but then ended up with gall stone and liver problems for 12 years until the last year where I started eating meat again.

    Here is an esoteric blog post about my personal vegetarian to steak journey.
    http://christinemarsh.net/index.php/vegetarianism-animals-plants-life-and-balance/

    It is funny because when these studies used to come out, I would be happy as a vegetarian, but now, I am having talks with people about how they are not truth.

    I now eat raw egg yolks 2-3 a day, organic cultured butter, and grass fed red meat as much as possible. I feel fantastic. I would eat raw meat if I could find a trusted source. Until then, what are the best ways to cook meat to retain nutrients?

    Thank You! :-D

    Christine Marsh wrote on March 14th, 2012
    • Maybe look into hot pot with a marrow broth? (Chinese Fondue according to Wikipedia.)

      A rice cooker seems like a cheap way to try it, since that’s meant to come to a boil as quickly as possible, then can be manually kicked into a warming cycle.

      Kelekona wrote on March 14th, 2012
      • The Sous Vide Supreme! Fantastic device, amazing meat, cooked at low heat (and low energy usage; very green). The meat (or veg) is cooked in a bag, so all the nutrients stay with it.

        Elenor wrote on March 14th, 2012
      • Thank You for the information Elenor and Kelekona! How about some ideas that do not require me buying equipment? Anyone?

        Christine Marsh wrote on March 20th, 2012
  29. Seems most of these studies are designed to further someone’s own personal agenda. Statistics can be manipulated to show any outcome you want. I bet I could do a study with the same set of people that showed the one’s that drive foreign made cars don’t live as long as one’s that drive domestic cars….so would that mean driving a foreign car is dangerous to your health too? I’ll be having a rib-eye tonight…thank you very much!

    GL wrote on March 14th, 2012
  30. In addition to the OBVIOUS flaws in this observational study, I have to wonder about the quality of the red meat being eaten by the study participants.

    As WE all know, there is a huge nutritional difference between grass-fed cattle and factory-farm cattle.

    Doug wrote on March 14th, 2012
  31. Great stuff infused with humor. I loved it. Just posted it to FB. Everyone, do your darn-best to inform the masses…or just a few friends! :)

    Tielle wrote on March 14th, 2012
  32. Study obviously paid for by the poultry board.

    cj wrote on March 14th, 2012
  33. Great piece Denise – thanks for putting this together.

    Here’s my take: http://www.fifth-ape.com/blog/2012/3/14/the-red-meat-menace.html

    Colin wrote on March 14th, 2012
  34. “Or is there more to this story than meats the eye?”

    It’s okay, Denise. We will wuv you. :-)

    Stabby wrote on March 14th, 2012
  35. Thanks for the article. I have to admit that after 3 months on a primal diet with great results – I feel so much better – I’m still a little wierded out about how much meat, especially red meat, I’m consuming. There’s a part of me that is a little scared I’m going to wake up one morning and find out it’s all a big scam and meat really will kill me . . . news stories like this one feed into that fear. But for now I’m carrying one with this primal way of eating and enjoying the benefits.

    gigi wrote on March 14th, 2012
  36. To me the most damning piece is the caloric reporting. If you go through the numbers, the non-meat eaters are failing to report a third to a half of what they are eating. How can you possible draw conclusions from that data!

    PhilipJames wrote on March 14th, 2012
  37. You’re right. Observational studies such as this one aren’t “proof”. They are merely observations. By the same token, the fact that we observe the sun rising every day isn’t “proof” that the sun will rise tomorrow. It may or it may not. Similarly, smoking cigarettes is found obervationally to be associated with lung cancer, but that alone isn’t “proof” that smoking cigarettes causes cancer. This study has observed that eating red meat is associated with an increased risk of dying prematurely. It’s a well-designed study, using a validated assessment measure, conducted by some of the best health researchers in the country, and the observations are both significant and compelling. It would be foolish to write this off as scientific flummery. It sounds like many people are allowing their stomachs to do their thinking for them.

    Mr Anonymous wrote on March 14th, 2012
    • On the contrary, it would be foolish to consider that the study raised more than a hypothesis. It would be foolish to consider the observations were significant given the range of confounding factors.

      Time to get smart:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1RXvBveht0

      goatfarmer wrote on March 15th, 2012
    • Stay anonymous. And take your straw men with you when you leave.

      Finnegans Wake wrote on March 15th, 2012
    • The study was not well designed. You could take the data and derive any conclusion that you were being paid to.

      Greg wrote on March 15th, 2012
  38. as delightful and full of chuckles as ever Denise – Thanks!

    love the image of the 4 year old beauty queen obsevational study/conclusive experiment wannabe – perfect!

    ravi wrote on March 14th, 2012
  39. I love red meat…and I also think that CAFO beef is probably as toxic and unhealthful for our bodies as it is for the cows and the environment.

    Salami and cafo beef are healthier for you than white sugar and flour.
    But you can ignore the studies with confidence by eating grassfed meats.

    I remember once ordering prime rib at a very nice restaurant, and after eating only grassfed beef for a year, I could actually taste an aftertaste of ammonia, like the smell of the feedlot had been absorbed by every cell of the animal. It was gross.

    fitmom wrote on March 14th, 2012
  40. I saw the release on Science Daily (without too much hype) so I didn’t bother with the mass media version. An interesting juxtaposition was the d-Life weekly newsletter which arrived the next day and had as it’s lead article
    “Is the Paleo Diet for You?
    Eating like your ancestors for better blood sugar today.”

    Rick wrote on March 14th, 2012

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