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:

  • ?All red meat is bad for you, new study says?
  • ?Red meat is blamed for one in 10 early deaths?
  • ?Scientists warn ?red meat can be lethal??

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 studies?including 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

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439 thoughts on “Will Eating Red Meat Kill You?”

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  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.

    1. 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!

      1. 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.

    2. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. 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 –

    3. 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

    4. Mark, Great job and looking deeper into this study.

      Staying Primal.

  2. Great analysis Denise! I’ve been getting emails about this and will now just send them your article!

    1. Not sure why the skepticism on heterocyclic amines; even the author herself recommended sticking to gentler cooking methods, and the link to the cancer.gov site isn’t denouncing eating red meat, just cooking it differently. It even says there’s more research to be done.

  3. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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?

      1. 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?

  4. 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…

  5. Just read the CNN article yesterday about how red meat will kill you dead… This post is a nice breath of fresh air.

    1. You may all follow Denise to the onset of cancer and heart disease. Vegan is the only sure way to live long.

      1. 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.

      2. You have absolutely no decent evidence to support this.

      3. Actually choice of parents is the most effective lifestyle choice, or maybe it’s avoiding high risk occupations and staying out of war zones.

  6. Thank you Denise and Mark. I go to rawfoodsos.com (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.

  7. This is phenomenal. Thank you Denise, I’m so sick of everyone telling me how deadly red meat is these past few days!

    1. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. denise is the bomb. JS at gnolls.org 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!

  10. Wish you hadn’t written this. I was hoping the price of red meat would go down.

    1. Reminds me of the dozens of cheap cantaloupes I ate last year shortly after the Rocky Ford ordeal.

    2. My thoughts exactly! To me the article said grass-fed beef about to get cheaper.

  11. 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.

      1. Not really that important. He’ll eat more eventually.

  12. 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.

  13. I was pretty sure this was all hooey. Thanks for the verification!

  14. As always Mark, another well-researched and thorough article. Great read, I was wondering when you were going to attack these studies!

    1. 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.

  15. Thanks for this, because I will admit to having been spooked by the new “news.”

  16. “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!

    1. 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?

  17. 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.

  18. 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. ?

    1. 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*.

  19. 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.

  20. Nice article! Another pointless conclusion based on weak “study” DEBUNKED.

  21. Thank you! Great info as usual. I was wondering who would address this and sure enough, this blog did! Appreciate all your info.

  22. 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!

  23. 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).

  24. Well done Mark! I knew I could count on you to dispel whatever inaccuracies and misinterpretations came from that study (and the medias simplistic coverage of it as always).

    1. This post was not written by Mark (thanks for sharing)it was written by Denise Minger.

  25. When I heard about this study, I had a nearly overwhelming urge to eat a large, juicy, rare steak. I quite enjoy my meat and will continue to eat as much as I please, because it makes me strong and happy. And I’m sure there are plenty of other things I do that will kill me a lot sooner than my red meat habit. Mmmmm, meat.

  26. Steak tartare is amazing. I learned a good recipe from a chef, it’s bomber. Paleo crack, I say.

    Great study review, Denise.

  27. The levels of misery these so-call study conclusions have inflicted! The HRT portion of the study alone plunged so many women into instant menopause, after their doctors told them to stop their hormones (mostly premarin and progestin — not bioidentical hormones.

    But the cohort who saw increased heart disease in this study??? Women, mostly over 70, who had long ago passed menopause and were NOT taking hormones before the study began. These ladies had fully adjusted to menopause and were put BACK on hormones after 10 to 20 years of minimal self-produced hormones. This was not good for them. Big surprise.

    Personally, I’m staying with my grass-fed beef and lamb and pastured pork and (gasp) bio-identical hormones — administered directly to me, and not to the cow!

    1. I don’t eat Red Meat i consider it toxic Standard American Diet Food. No offense i just prefer lean meats and fish.

  28. Awesome work, Denise!

    But I have just one point to nitpick…

    For future large observational studies, which will no doubt be coming down the pipeline (federal funders seem to love this stuff), investigators can choose to control for which ever confounders they want.

    Now if and when paleo observational studies are done, I wonder this: What would the results look like if we control for things like “eats grass fed meat”, “doesn’t overly char their meat”, “gets enough vitamin D”. If these sorts of things that we deem to be important are adjusted for statistically, observational studies of paleo could be very useful, methinks.

  29. Another delightful deconstruction by Denise Minger! The only nit I’ll pick is in her analogy of HRT. Tucked away at the end of the recording of a Tom Naughton lecture on the 2011 low-carb cruise is a brief interview with a Dr. Fox, a reproductive endocrinologist, who heard Tom’s talk. He pointed out that these vaunted clinical studies that condemned HRT were methodologically unsound, to put it politely. First, the studies used oral estrogen, which medical researchers already knew increased the risk of clots and strokes. Second, the study population was women well into or slightly past menopause, which medical researchers already knew showed to lowest benefit of HRT. Dr. Fox said that other studies show that if you used a transdermal HRT patch on peri-menopausal women, the benefits were “remarkable,” with very low adverse effects. Either the researchers for the sensationalist studies were exceptionally clueless or they had an agenda.

  30. Yeah! Stupid study (probably funded somewhere by the activist groups). Bit I look at it this way – demand will (temporarily) decreased – driving the cost of beef/meat down. MORE MEAT FOR US!! (there’s always a bright side).

    1. Followed by a decrease in meat production which will make the price go up.

  31. I saw this on CNN yesterday and was wondering when we’d see a post on it. I noticed the cholesterol “whoops” right away.

    When I see studies skewed like this and then harped on by the media…makes me wonder where the media’s media is. Where is the “Mass media fails to investigate full story” headline?

    1. It’s in places like this and other non-mainstream media. I’ve pretty much given up on anything resembling accurate science coming from a mass media outlet, as they clearly don’t understand statistics or the scientific method, to say nothing of observational vs. experimental studies. All they understand is grabbing readers/viewers to make more money for their sponsors.

  32. The perfect article to give to “friends” who tell me I don’t have enough of a scientific background to make knowledgeable decisions about eating meat. My reply is always I take advice from those who have proven results, not just theories.

    I might not have the background to explain the “why”, but you both definitely do, and you explain it all so well too. Funny enough, visual enough and scientific enough for anyone. Thanks for the ammunition.

  33. Thank You for this post! You are all so appreciated…making my Job MUCH easier!
    Now…I think I’ll go make a nice juicy steak!

  34. Thanks for the excellent and hilarious analysis. I laughed out loud quite a few times!

  35. Why don’t we see studies about what is really killing us, SUGAR AND GRAIN!!!

  36. When I saw this study at the top of the New York Times’ most-emailed list, my initial reaction was dismay, then frustration as I read the write-up. Now I’m a little more philosophical about it: Yeah, it’s bad, misleading science (and since journalism)… but it also means more meat for me!

  37. Denise, Great post ! March seems to be the official anti-red meat month. So thanks for clearing up the observation vs experiment concept. At the same time, I have noticed a lot of meat eating gurus also use similar observational studies to justify their diets.

    Here is another scary study this morning:


    Look forward to finding out about the poodle groomer murder mystery in the next episode 🙂

  38. thank you for this! as a research scientist, i appreciate the fact that you see the manipulation and twist of data going on here. the homogeneity of the group study is wildly biased in them wanting to hate on red meat.

    as i was reading the original article, i couldn’t help but think, i be these people are pre-diabetic and/or come with a whole host of other risk factors already predisposing them to an early grave. /gloating time for me 🙂

  39. Thank you so much for speaking your mind! If looking like both you and your wife do, is on the verge of death, how fast can I join you guys!
    Thank you again for being such a ‘calm in the storm’ as I am always under fire for my new ‘eating habits’. You guys are the best!!!!

  40. Thanks for getting on this so quickly, Mark! I read this article yesterday on the LATimes website and just rolled my eyes thinking the same things about observational studies as you outlined above. Thanks for the additional info about the data, very helpful 🙂

  41. The study provides interesting data, and, as you and others have mentioned, there are weaknesses that call some of the conclusions into question.

    That said, these results do say something about the wisdom of overly limiting one’s sources of caloric intake or macronutrients.

    I’m not afraid to eat red meat, but I don’t eat it at every meal either.

  42. This is something my Psych teachers repeatedly try to remind my classmates and myself: there is always going to be more information out there that is omitted, overlooked, or conveniently sidetracked. Similar to studies made on the brains of identical twins where one was addicted to cocaine, and the other was not, and a ‘difference’ was found in the brain of the cocaine addicted one..but the information was ‘left out’ that the same difference was found in the sober twin. Why would it be any different with food studies?

    As always, look where the information comes from, who funded the research, and what the original research goal was, because there will always be some sort of bias in any research study, and those biases always have to be kept in mind.

    As a side note, pink slime has been getting a bit more notice lately it seems, because there has also been mention lately that the USDA is wanting to keep kids ‘healthier’ by feeding them the ammonia treated pink slime in school lunches, since the ammonia kills off things like E.Coli. Even McDonald’s and Burger King don’t serve products containing pink slime. Why in the world would we want children eating something that the public has made such an outcry against that even the big fast food chains don’t serve it?

  43. Seriously awesome! Encore encore! 😀

    – Was shocked to see the article in a Dutch newspaper, large headline and all, i thought, what are these [insert bad word here] up to now?!

  44. It would be interesting to see “Total Liver consumption” vs deaths of various causes, if someone could care to run that data 🙂

  45. Thanks, Mark. I suspected there was some seriously BS science at work, but it’s nice to see this parsed out.

    One question – you mention above that the FFQ validation report says foods like red meat (and other fatty or sweet foods) were underreported but just a few paragraphs later you mention an Australian study that shows sick people overreport meat consumption, meaning that we might see a higher correlation in the data with unhealthy people because of this trend.

    These two statements seem to contradict, and I’m trying to figure out if I’m missing something.

    Other than that, this is a great takedown, and I love the correlation with red meat consumption and lower cholesterol. Fascinating.

  46. It’s also worth considering that the meat these people were eating was more than likely grain fed. Would the results have differed on grass fed meat?

  47. And you have to understand that statistics can show whatever you want them to show. It is one of the first things you learn in a stats class.
    My Mother is 92 and ate lots of red meat. That will not kill her, the USDA pyramid will.

  48. > 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…

    Then the study (on, I think, what they did to correct for this):

    >We used time-dependent Cox proportional hazards regression models to assess the association of red meat consumption with cause-specific and total mortality risks during follow-up.

    Is there any way to say more of why that’s not complete or satisfactory? TBH, I don’t know what “Cox proportional hazards” means.

    1. As someone who does this type of research I can clarify: there was nothing really unsatisfactory regarding their adjustment for confounders. What Denise is referring to is the possibility of “residual confounding”–that adjusting for physical activity patterns did not TOTALLY account for the fact that the “low meat eaters” had other healthy behaviors that weren’t completely observed. Often, depending on the specific relationships between the healthy behaviors (since they all tend to be related), you only need one variable to block the confounding pathway… something we use called DAG theory explains this. You never really know if residual confounding is truly an issue… you can only speculate. While I think she makes some excellent points here, I think she made too much out of this issue.

      As for the Cox Proportional hazards model, it’s a means of doing a statistical analysis when you’re looking at the time it takes something to happen (death, in this case). It allows you to include not only the variable you’re interested in (meat consumption), but also other confounding variables (age, physical activity, smoking, etc…). It was absolutely the correct statistical approach for this analysis.

      1. Great post Denise! Love reading your critiques!

        PB, It seems in the process of adjusting for confounders the Harvard researchers left out sugar, specifically fructose. While the research indicates that they adjusted for other dietary components, including glycemic load, this would not capture fructose since fructose has minimal impact on blood sugar levels. By leaving out this explanatory variable, would there estimates not be biased and p-values worthless.

        I wanted to run this by someone with some statistical insight… hopefully you will come back and check this post…

  49. I was hoping you’d respond to this news, and I’m glad you did. Thank you for a well-thought-out post.

    As an aside, my vegan co-worker has been sick for 3 weeks, and I want to tell her to just go eat a big, grass-fed steak! She’d feel so much better.

  50. Mark- today’s “Livestrong” email that I receive periodically is entitled “Is Red Meat Dangerous”. Literally arrived in my inbox 5 minutes before your Daily Apple.

    What’s the world coming to. Wondering what Lance’s position is on this.

  51. Evolution, which favours the perpetuation of traits and characteristics carried forward by survivors, has resulted (so far) in a variegated set of human teeth. We have evolved as omnivores. This makes me wary of science implying that evolution has favoured unhealthy eating for millions of years.

  52. The average American has failed to identify portion sizes so many times (and so consistently) that this questionnaire could be rendered inadmissible on that alone.

  53. Thank you for destroying this study! I saw this on CNN the other day, and was completely annoyed by it.

  54. I was kind of stunned — well maybe I shouldn’t be — that they made no effort to address or remove any correlation of the “red meat eaters” with the consumption of added sugars, desserts and other processed foods. It appears that they recorded some of that data in the form, but it is glaringly absent from the summary table.

    I would bet that those eating the Big Bites are also drinking the Big Gulps. Along with some potato chips and a twinkie for dessert.

  55. After hearing about this lately I was wondering if we would hear from MDA about it. Great break down not only of this study but it also gave me some great insight as I hear about and ready more studies in the future. Thank you!

  56. This just in, a new study reveals that oxygen inhalation leads to death….

  57. Im willing to be it’s more about bad lifestyle than anything. I mean, when I picture the average person who eats a ton of red meat, I picture the people who eat fast food all the time, never work out, and just eat like pigs in general. So in that regard – yeah, red meat can kill you.

  58. Wow! Thanks again Denise for processing all the data and once again showing how biased scientists and a biased press can spin any data.

  59. Did anyone take a look at the questionnaire? I particularly enjoyed how they asked about salt, with the portion size being “1 shake”

    Find me the person that can accurately estimate the number of salt shakes used over the past year, and I’ll turn vegan.

    Great job, Denise.

  60. Thank you once again, Denise. A breath of sanity and critical thought in an increasingly mad world seemingly incapable of rational analysis. I always look forward to your guest posts.

  61. Thanks for this!

    I, like many others, didn’t buy into this study, but it did irk me to see concern trolls spreading this all over the paleosphere. There were at least 2 or 3 ‘The sky is falling! It’s been 100% proven that eating meat kills you!’ threads here on MDA itself.

    Next time somebody mentions this to me, I’ll send ’em this link.

    Once again, thanks.

  62. I feel sorry for the average consumer who has no idea what’s what and can’t/won’t break down a paper like this for themselves and/or find someone who will before jumping on the bandwagon and proclaiming it for the gospel.

  63. Mark, great post, but one thing… you need to label both axes of your graphs.

  64. In looking at the linked Standardized Characteristics by Meat Consumption Quintile chart, I was intrigued to see the correlation (or lack thereof, depending on how you look at it) between reported calorie intake and calculated BMI. Now, I’d be the first person to say that BMI isn’t all that useful for those of us who work hard to keep up lean muscle mass, but it is an interesting value for a general population.

    In the Health Pros Follow-up Study, those in the lowest meat consumption group reported a calorie intake well below what the average body burns, yet they still managed to average a BMI only 0.3 points below what is considered overweight. The other four groups were all in the overweight category.

    In the Nurses’ Health Study, all quintiles were in the normal weight by BMI category.

    Weird all around.

  65. Denise, you are a marvel!! Thanks for such an educational and entertaining look at this latest meat study. Can’t wait for the book!

  66. Great Points Mark!

    My mom just told me she heard on the radio that beef is bad for you and causes cancer. I eat beef almost daily and I believe it to be one the healthiest things on this planet. Assuming of course it’s grass fed.

    I will have to show my mom the cholosterol study.


  67. Thanks so much!! When my mother in law called at 5 am to warn my husband (sadly, still a grain eater…) that I was going to die soon from my red meat “addiction” I knew things were really out of hand. He promised to try and get me to eat a bagel for breakfast and went back to sleep…but she was seriously upset. I’ll try sending her this article.

  68. This is wonderful! Along with the fact that the eating ‘more red meat’ with God knows what going into that category. It wasn’t ‘eating pastured organic meat’ prepared traditionally, with lots of organs, shellfish and bone broths. Sure, a guy who eats hamburger (deep fried in rancid soybean oil) every day will probably have higher risks of everything.

  69. Simply the best! Yes I did receive the panic and scoffing emails from friends and family and was preparing to respond and use the study as an exercise in critical thinking. After researching the original study I went on to read others thoughts on Paleo Hacks, Gnolls org

  70. I guess first things first. These studies are all flawed without going into a diatribe. I could turn Jesus into Lucipher using statistics. Statistics is NOT science. I am a scientist by training and have a hard enough time believing some science. Google the topic of statistics and science and you’ll see endless ridicule of drawing unscientific conclusions using unscientific statistics.

    Actually, I can appreciate both sides of this debate. But, what isn’t debatable is that animal protein is needed by the human body. As an example, tryptophan in reasonably large quantities is needed as a precursor to so many vital processes. You aren’t going to get enough tryptophan in spinach unless you eat 40 pounds of it a week. Literally.

    What I do believe is reasonably incontrovertible is that today’s industrial red meat offers a nutritional profile that could be disconcerting. Grass fed red meat has a profile similar to salmon. Industrial red meat has a profile that is much higher in omega 6 fats as you have written before. Omega 6s may be required by the body but they are also a potential precursor to heart disease. Then we have the never-ending feeding of dead animals to cattle. And, we have the never-ending use of daily antibiotics to cattle. And, then feeding them grains instead of grass.

    There is some level of scientific argument to be made that today’s red meat is toxic or even already putrified by the time it hits our stomach.

    The takeaway from the questions you have raised should lead to one conclusion that is incontrovertible: We need to quit consuming industrial meats. Especially cured industrial meats.

    1. Just a note on “grain” fed cows. The assumption in palaeo circles seems to be that cows are either being fed on grain or on grass.

      Wrong wrong wrong and wronger.

      For starters, there are many grass farmers who build TMR (“total mixed ration”) into their pasture systems.


      This is why it’s important for primal eaters to question their grass farmers/ranchers carefully about how their animals are fed and finished.

      Next, TMR systems feed cows from the standpoint of some ideal predetermined ratio of nutrients. Then the livestock producer throws together whatever substances have those nutrients. Need more fiber? Use shredded newspaper. More nitrogen? How about some nice sterilized manure/slurry? More moisture? Well, I can get you megatons of washwater from the cookie factory pretty cheap! How about some Wet Byproducts (hey, I know a brewery dying to get rid of its spent beer grains and a tofu company with lots and lots of squeezed out soybeans! let’s run ’em through the cows!)?

      In this model, cows are basically factory units and waste consumers. Not ruminants with a long and ancient system of prairie/steppe foraging.

      You’d actually be lucky if your beef HAD been fed actual grain. And if you really want to get hives, read about what’s fed to dairy cattle.

      The truth is that dairy and beef cattle are fed like pigs in industrial farming systems. It is appalling, and it is surely a cause of so much health disorder, over and above the mass addiction to carbs.

      Search on the terms “total mixed ration” to learn more.

  71. Mark why don’t you get together with a university and use us as the research subjects. We are all conscious of what we eat and maybe the results may enlighten the rest of the population.

  72. Ahhhhh, what a refreshing read counter to the original story. I’ll take a 6oz. filet mignon with that rebuttal please!

  73. Thanks Denise! I guess I can take my finger off the subscribe button for Vegetarian Times. Have an awesome day and keep searching for the truth. It’s in there somewhere…

  74. Denise Minger is the BEST, the BOMB, the Wonder Woman who destroys Junk-Health-Science with humor that would make her the Last Comic Standing in any competition.

    I only wish she would Blog once in a while.

  75. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for this post. I find myself getting tongue tied with zeal when trying to explain my diet to friends and family members, many of which are vegan, vegetarian or meat-phobic and this gave voice to many of my objections of their objections.

    I appreciate your concise and unequivocal dissecting of this survey for these very reasons.

  76. I LOVE this. Great writing. Great explanations and debunking. I was just saying to someone last night that correlation is not causation. Next person that questions red meat to me, I’m sending them a link here to read up! BTW, I LOVE ‘Science Says Meat Will Kill You’ – makes me smile.

    …as I finish eating my leftover venison-bacon meatloaf. 🙂

  77. Penguins don’t lactate? Looks like I’m cancelling that Antarctica cruise…

    Oh, and great article. Thanks.

  78. What about the study where they found that 100% of people who drink water..die?

  79. Not to mention that grain-fed, hormone and antibiotic riddled, feces stumbling cows produce only damaged beef. Harvard separates out “processed” meet, but I’d like to see a study eating damaged beef (akin to Morgan Spurlock’s supersized but un-natural diet) vs. real beef from cows eating what cows are meant to eat, wandering uncrowded grasslands, whose owners have “just said no” to drugs for their critters.

  80. Thanks for writing this – as I just started eating primal, I got a bit spooked. I feel much better after having read this article.

  81. Well, if red meat is going to kill us all sooner rather than later, it’s obvious all the folks posting here (presumably me included) are posting from the after-life.

  82. I heard about this study from my wife about 30 seconds after CNN posted their summary. “I told you so! red meat does kill you!”

    At least when I actually read the article, CNN included a paragraph at the end of the article admitting that there are opposing points of view, and that obervational studies show correlation, not causation. That is some progress.

  83. There is something I don’t get. Meat producers have a very strong lobby too in the U.S. I remember Oprah almost getting her pants sued off years ago when she made a bad remark about cattle. So why is everyone allowed to take potshots at meat whereas the grain and sugar industries seem to benefit from some sort of secret protection?

  84. So many meat-haters will waive around that observational study like it’s gospel…

    I know it took considerable time to formulate the information on the opposing viewpoint, and I’m so glad you gave it.

    Thanks for writing it, Denise, and thanks for posting it, Mark 🙂

  85. Yay! Thanks SOOO much for breaking this down for us. The headlines were worrying me. Since I presume you downloaded the actual study, does it say who funded it? NIH grant, etc?

  86. I was unfortunately exposed to the article by Fox while getting a roast beef sandwich. Apparently cancelling cable won’t free one from the propaganda.

  87. Reading things like this study always makes me think of our Aboriginal (Native Indian) populations – who only began eating sugar and grains within the last few hundred years. Of course we all know how healthy that demographic is now! (EYE ROLL) Skyrocketing diabetes, heard disease, obesity, etc etc etc. Sooooo…. they went from a very healthy society to a totally unhealthy one within such a short time period because…..??? Their traditional diet of foods from the land (wild, foraged) which no doubt had a huge consumption of red meat was BAD?? CRAZY. Man, those scientists must think the average jane/joe is STUPID. Maybe they are. 🙁

    1. That’s the exact same study Denise refutes in this post.

  88. 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.

  89. What a beautifully written article. Plodding through this sort of info is often a drag – not this time!! Enjoyable and educational.

  90. 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 🙂

  91. 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!

  92. 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!)!!!

  93. 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.

  94. Wow… Very exhaustive article… Love it! Thanks Mark!!

  95. 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.


  96. 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.

  97. I am a Paleo Crossfit Grandma and Ive lost 79lbs. in the last year.https://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.

  98. 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.

  99. 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.”

  100. 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.

  101. 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?”

  102. 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!!

  103. 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.

  104. 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”

  105. 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?

    1. 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.

    2. 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…)

      1. 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.

        1. Exactly, Mario. Well said.

          The smoking comparison is a straw man.

  106. Brilliant! Thank you!

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

  107. 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.

  108. 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!

    1. 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!

  109. Correlation does not equal causation. Period. No ifs ands or buts. And true researchers, not fad-chasing grant writers know this to be true.

  110. 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!

  111. 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.

    1. 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!”

  112. 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.

    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! 😀

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

  113. 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!

  114. 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.

  115. 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! 🙂

  116. “Or is there more to this story than meats the eye?”

    It’s okay, Denise. We will wuv you. 🙂

  117. 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.

  118. 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!

  119. 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.

    1. 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:

    2. Stay anonymous. And take your straw men with you when you leave.

    3. The study was not well designed. You could take the data and derive any conclusion that you were being paid to.

  120. 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!

  121. 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.

  122. 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.”

  123. Excellent article. In my immediate family a person who had cancer was asked to participate in a study that used the same sort of questionnaire. The questions were ludicrous like how many times did you eat cantaloupe in the last 6 months. No one can remember that stuff. However, if they asked me how many times I ate wheat, I would have an answer. But if you asked me in the last 20 years? Come on! This is nuts.

  124. So, let’s see if I can do simple arithmetic: out of every 10 premature deaths, gorging on red meat causes 1. Therefore, 9 of every 10 premature deaths happen to people who don’t eat a lot of red meat.

  125. The problem with the rebuttal is that it’s totally unscientific.

    Science works like this: i) start with evidence and observations; ii) examine evidence and observations and draw most likely conclusion.

    To form the rebuttal you’ve done the opposite thing: i) start with conclusion (i.e. red meat is not bad, the study is flawed); ii) search for any evidence that re-enforces the conclusion.

    This is how religious creationists work.

    1. So what you are trying to say is that Denise is committing the fallacy of petitio principii or begging the question. The problem with saying this is that she only analyzes the data and only asks us to accept her version. If you have issue with the analysis, that is a separate issue. I think you draw the conclusion that the statement ‘meat is good for you therefore the data is false’ is implied because this is a pro-meat website.

      However, as I point out below, you can negate an entire argument if you prove that their conclusions are based on a fallacy. The main point is that the conclusions from this article are not applicable to the general population.

    2. Seriously?

      1) Observe Things
      2) Draw Conclusions

      Did you mean to say that out loud?

      Try this:
      1) Observe Things
      2) Propose Hypothesis (note: not likely CONCLUSION, as you state)
      3) Design Experiment that will (this is important, read carefully) disprove the hypothesis if it fails.
      4) Conduct Experiment
      5) If experiment doesn’t fail, have others replicate and test for failure

      Congratulations, you’ve just given birth to a new theory, which will most likely be killed by an ugly fact at some later date.

      Celebrate. It’s real science.


  126. Your points are correct and reasonable, but you have overlooked the most glaring evidence in the entire article, viz.: the population sample is from healthcare related workers and that white race is listed as describing greater than 93% of respondents.

    If we take that food frequency based questionnaires are flawed and have been shown to misrepresent data, you can strongly argue that a sample from healthcare related fields would be more biased because they presumably know that red meat consumption is unhealthy. This supposed common knowledge would put the respondents in a dilemma. Do they respond as with how they actually eat or how they should eat? Already knowing how you should answer a question is grounds for dismissing the entire population sample, at least if the study is observational and based on a questionnaire.

    The title of this study is “Red Meat Consumption and Mortality.” However with a population sample that is greater that 93% white it would need to be changed to “Red Meat Consumption and Mortality in a Predominantly Caucasian Cohort” to accurately represent the data. As it stands the sample is biased because they intend this work to be used for the population as a whole, the entire human race. The race data are easy to overlook; in this case, however, they are the linchpin to the applicability of the study.

    In their comment section, the authors of this study readily state that healthcare workers are an ideal population for this study, as there is no confounding factor of educational attainment. This clearly leaves out the perspective I outlined above. The authors never even once mention the truly confounding issue of a sample population that heavily favors one race. This entire article is a clear example of what is called the ‘biased sample’ fallacy. As such you simply can not accept any of their findings as applicable to human health or disease.

  127. Straight from the researcher’s mouth…but I”m sure it was the meat.

    “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 higher body mass indexes. In addition, a higher red meat intake was associated with a higher intake of total energy (caloric intake) but lower intakes of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.”

  128. Congratulations, you’ve taken a freshman level psychology class and now you think that you are a critic of science.

    Many things are way off about in this piece. Let’s get going.

    Claim 1: 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.

    First of all, let’s get clear about what it means to “count as evidence”. Correlational studies can indeed provide compelling evidence for a hypothesis in question. If X is significantly and positively correlated with Y, what we cleary have evidence for is that some relationship exists between the two variables. For those of you who need concrete examples: this means that if the study finds that red meat consumption cardiac disease, cancer and morality are significantly and positively correlated, we at least have established a strong relationship of some kind exists between them.

    Now, of course someone like you invoke the psycho 101 slogan and point out that we can’t be sure that the relationship is a causal one. Frank Hu would agree. To contribute is not to cause. To contribute is be part of a relationship that may or not be causal. My waking up this morning contributes to my riding my bike to work. If I didn’t wake up this morning I wouldn’t have rode my bike to work. But waking up obviously didn’t cause me to bike to work. It was probably my decision that it was a beautiful day.

    But now we ask ourselves, so what is the relationship exactly? You meat eaters had better hope its not causal! Well the researchers are aware of the possibility of other factors, so as you admit they controlled for other potential causal factors. And once controlling for other factors they still found the strong relationship. Oddly, you suddenly write this off as “fancy math” and argue that that shouldn’t matter because the survey’s lacked validity anyway. Here are some things you should know about the “fancy math”. When controlling for other factors they probably ran a “mediation analysis” (sorry – you didn’t cover that in psych 101). Basically a mediation analysis looks to see if third variable can account statistically for the relationship between your variables of interest. Now if they find that many other potential causal factors fail to account for the relationship then we are left with a very nice suggestion: X most likely causes Y.

    Running a true experiment can try to confirm the suggestion, and of course the hypothesis will be that X causes Y. But claiming that we need to wait on the perfect experiment doesn’t seem prudent in this case. We’re talking about our personal health here, and there’s a clear indication of a relationship between meat-eating and mortality/disease that you’re going to have to do a good job of explaining away.

    By the way, notice how this author only makes negative interpretation and never try to give a competing nor plausible explanation of the results. The data are there, if you choose to interpret them differently you will need to provide a better explanation that is consistent with ALL the data, not something you pick out randomly from an old study.

    On the validity of the questionnaires. Your reasoning apparently comes from thin air here. You cite a study showing that the questionnaire people tend to UNDER report, and then another study showing they OVER report. Now how do you get to the conclusion that we should assume the results are skewed because people probably OVER reported? Notice that besides what you are doing is merely speculating about flaws in the study, you are doing it without any reason.

    On lower meat-eating men having “higher” cholesterol. For someone who wants to criticize what statistics can tell us you sure do pick and choose how to interpret data. You show a chart with no significance listed in the difference. Then you conclude that clearly men who eat less red meat have the highest cholesterol! For those of you who were mislead by this person’s conclusion: without significant the difference is most likely due to chance.
    On the lessons from the past section. This section is pointless. To point to an unconnected event occurring once in the past has nothing to do with the chance that it will happen in an unrelated event. Because I spilt my drink one time when I was chewing gum doesn’t mean I will spill my drink if I’m holding a pencil.

    And finally, as a parting shot at your hypocrisy, let’s have a look at one of your closing lines about what you, personally, speculate to be the danger in eating meat.:

    “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).”

    The main upshot of your whole off-base discussion is just to pick at that data and show that research isn’t conclusive yet. In the meantime, you are comfortable using inconclusive research to found your suggestion about meat cooking temperature.

    This just drives home the conclusion that you believe what you want to. I don’t understand living in ignorance when cancer, heart-disease and mortality are involved. You clearly just interpret the data in a biased fashion so you can feel happy eating your dead animals. Well congratulations you’ve fooled yourself again. That’s totally fine. But don’t come around here portraying to people that you are basing your interpretations on fact or scientific knowledge. You’re misleading lots of people who just do what they are told. That’s a tough burden to bear isn’t it?


      1. You mean the parts of the teeth for aggression displays rather than then functional flat molars for food we digested?

    1. Billy (B),

      Can you show me how this is not a biased sample? How is the general population supposed to draw any conclusions based on a population sample that is greater than 93% white? Yet this is precisely what the authors intend for us to do with their conclusions.

      This is a respectful question too so please don’t go all ad hominem on me. Psychology 101? Was that really necessary?


      1. That’s a fair question. Notice first that it’s different than anything said in the author’s post.

        A sample that is 93% white might lack external validity given the target of the general population. However, I don’t think that point will help your case. Previous studies show that african americans are more prone to high blood pressure and heart disease. There’s a worry (for you) that if the sample was more hetergenous the numbers would be looking worse (for you).

        But you’re right that the sample is biased for one race. This just means we should be careful how far we extend the conclusions. I’m white so I’ll take them to in account more than perhaps an Asian American or African American would. That’s a fair point for sure.

  129. “Trying to find ‘proof’ in an observational study is like trying to make a penguin lactate. It just ain’t happening… ever.”

    And I was told penguin milk was a good low-carb option. What have I been drinking?!

  130. I’m a biologist, so I want to say thank you for such a great breakdown of this because I had no time to do so for the people I know!

  131. Good article. I’d have summed up the “study” as correlation does not equal causation and that it wasn’t real science..

  132. I wonder why the bad logic that whole grains are healthy because it replaced sugary high carb junk never came under attack, maybe if grains had faces and children. Low carb paleo works even if it is just my observation, besides metabolic challanged people would die sooner if left to high carb grains instead of meat.

  133. Brilliant as usual. I took an amatuer stab on it while filling in at the Fat Head site.

    How do you read the line where they said they stopped updating the surveys if people had been diagnosed with a chronic condition?

    My theory is that since everyone who gets sick is told to switch to grains and carbs, and ditch meat and fat, they “trapped” probably thousands of grain-eaters outcomes in the meat eaters column.

  134. As a nurse and a researcher, I am appalled by the lack of respect for the scientific method. An observational study, is just that..observational. A signpost, not a definitive location.

    I am a new convert to paleo lifestyle…I love to get dirty and run around in the woods so this is a good fit for me.

    I am afraid that if the media/government complex gets out of hand we may lose our health coverage because we refuse to give up evil red meat. Get taxed at a higher rate because of our filthy addiction. Hell, they would probably prefer that we all smoked tar than ate some lovely lamb.

  135. Two items I wondered re eating habits of study participants. (1) Corn-fed beef changes ratio of omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-6 is increased and is an inflammatory agent. Inflammation is associated with heart and other cardiovascular disease. So for many of us the study would need to indicate grass-fed (richer in omega-3 and lower in omega-6) beef consumers as a separate category. (2) Eating greens with beef reduces gut irritation. We do need to know the full picture of eating habits of study participants.

  136. I’ve been visiting this site for a month or so now. I was going to point out some great writing today but I can’t…..This entire article is a great piece of writing and argument!! Thank you!

  137. I’m sure if you go back a few years you’ll see the same type of article about eggs. Now eggs are perfectly acceptable.

  138. I knew I could show up here and get the skinny….. thanks Mark and Denise – I have sent this to facebook to alleviate some of the fearmongering…

  139. Seems to me people will find an article to satisfy the beliefs they have already formed. The reason the Beef Industry haven’t funded a case control study is because they don’t really want the findings they suspect to be true to be confirmed. I will now stop mu subscription to your biased emails.

  140. Awesome Mark! Any first year biostatistics’ student knows that these studies are extremely flawed and inaccurate. Thank you for fighting back.

    1. I think you should go on to your second year. The study has weaknesses, as do all studies. That does not make it ipso facto wrong.

      1. The problem is that the media portray it as conclusive, and their audience accepts it as such.

        All ships have the capacity to sink. I’d prefer to board one not already copiously leaking water, e.g.

  141. It’s amazing how people love to try and connect-the-dots to fit their intent-outcome equation. I was buying some grass-fed beef at my local co-op and had the cashier make this huge issue about meat and refuse to touch the package because she had been a vegan for 7 years. In her little, fear-based mind meat was the root of all evil. I couldn’t help but get snappy and said “The negative-neurochemicals of your fear are doing far more damage to your cells than this meat could”. I felt better and she looked confused. These experiments rule out so many factors like stress levels, perspective, belief, and other things that can’t be properly calculated. People just need to learn how to listen to their body not their heads.

    1. I was a vegetarian for about 20 years. I used to do that. I would walk by the meat section in complete disgust and horror. I had heard of people who became meat eaters after being vegetarians and thought, how horrible they were, and that I would never. Ever. Do it.

      Well, here I am. No longer a vegetarian. Now, I walk by the meat section, and gently touch the packages thanking the animals for sharing their lives and energy with us. It feels a lot better, and actually more balanced.

      So, whatever any study or person says. I feel more balanced and able to help people, the earth, and the animals.

  142. Sic ’em, Denise! Great article! Thank you for this, and giving me peace of mind when I chow down on my grass-fed steak.

  143. To answer the question in simple terms…
    Only if you choke on a piece while try to talk at the same time>>>GROK ON>>>

  144. I missed this bit of gold on the media. Oh wait, that’s because I stopped listening to them ages ago.
    Stop eating … it gives you cancer. No,No, we now realize … is good for you and you should eat it lots, mmm, no, in moderation.

    I don’t believe researchers because they rely on the Government to pay them, and Gov’ts, have an agenda so the research will always be tainted.

    Take Global Warming for example. They don’t even call it Global Warming any more because there were more holes in that theory than Swiss cheese sliced by a chainsaw. We had an Ice Age and now it’s much warmer, so naturally the Earth warmed up before we were here, so why is it our fault that it’s getting hotter now and who in their right mind, thinks we can stop it. If the Gov’t can make it our fault then they can tax us for it. Agenda? What Agenda?

  145. I have an even better study – my own father. He died at the age of 89 – never took a pill for anything in his entire life and lived on red meat, eggs, bacon (seriously – eggs and bacon every single day his entire life as far back as I can remember – sometimes 3 or 4 eggs in a morning) and chicken (thighs only please) his entire life. He was strong and healthy, no cholesterol issues and the same BP and heart rate as my 17 year old grandson who is a football player and track runner. He died of a broken heart from my mom passing before he did – 67 years they were married. But he was amazing. That’s what’s been really making me look at this way of eating/ lifestyle – he lifted heavy things all his life (was a carpenter) never did “exercise” just hard work and played outdoors with us a lot. He was always fit and strong. He moved in with me when he was 87 and ate eggs every single day – with bacon when we had it. My vegetarian sister would freak out and yell about it, but that’s the way he always ate – eggs cooked in butter with bacon. Seemed to work!!! Doctor’s were amazed at his “numbers” but like I said, he died of a broken heart from missing my mother so much after her passing. He just stopped eating and couldn’t go on any longer. But knowing that this is how he ate, and lived makes me more determined to do this.

  146. So when is somebody going to fund a grass-fed organic beef study???? So we who know in our guts, bodies and minds can finally feel some public vindication?

  147. Unlike many other commenters, I find Minger’s analysis flawed and offensive.

    Nearly all of her critiques are addressed in the study, which she does not mention. (e.g. FFQs have been debated and validated, and any error in the data would tend reduce the effect found in the study. A number of statistical checks were performed, the confounders were adjusted for etc.)

    I think there are aspects of this study that could be criticized, but the ad hominem and sarcastic style used by Minger is offensive to me. It is comical to propose that these researchers were unaware of the limits of observational studies and confused correlation with causation.

    I cannot see putting a lot of credence in Minger’s critique. Yes it was an prospective cohort study, but the large sample size ameliorates many of the potential inaccuracies in the study.

    It may turn out that the signal found in the study is a result of mere correlation, but to argue that it definitely is, on the scant grounds given by Minger is patently false.

    1. The “scientists” didn’t even (couldn’t) differentiate between processed meat and ‘red’ meat! How could a study that does not (and cannot) separate out the bun and Coke from the burger to make up their ‘who’s eating what?’ divisions to even begin to accurately determine if it WAS the burger or the bun or the seed oils used in the special sauce that lead to some health effect?!

      (And that even assumes the people filling out the food list accurately reported how many times they ate at MickeyD’s over the past many months! How about you — can YOU accurately report how many times you ate this or that meal? Cause your hostility makes it pretty clear you’re not a meat eater!)

      1. I am a meat eater, which demonstrates your ignorance in attacking me, and why ad hominem arguments are logical fallacies. Your pejorative quotation marks around the word scientist is a case in point. The people behind the study are some of the top nutrition researchers in the world. To accuse them of being not scientists is offensive and not constructive. The paper may be flawed and it may ultimately prove wrong, but attack the data not the scientist.

        The hostility is all yours. There was none in my comment. I did not attack Minger for being a 25 year old amateur with no formal training and only an English undergraduate degree. I did not accuse her of being dishonest and twisting the truth by selective quoting and straw man arguments (all of which I believe she did). It isn’t constructive.

        In fact, can report how much meat I ate over the past year in general terms. Are you familiar with the extensive literature on Food Frequency Questionnaires as a tool in epidemiology? They have been well studied, debated and validated. Of course they are inaccurate, but even Minger agrees they might yield useful data (read her response). And if you read the study you will find that the responses were parceled into quintiles so as to detect overall dietary patterns not actual mass of meat eaten.

        Certainly most people would remember if they were heavy meat eaters or non-meat eaters.

  148. My grandparents all lived well into the 90s, they were all active, and all ate red meat daily, they all died of old age. Whats funny is just 2 months ago a British study reported eating lean red meat daily was no more harmful to your health than eating chicken or fish. I wish these scientists would put the energy and time into something worth while.

  149. Not to be a wet blanket or anything — but eating red meat may very well kill you, although not via the mechanisms purported by the observational study. Eating meat is the single greatest contributor of carbon dioxide (and air and water pollution) to the atmosphere. In fact, if Americans were to reduce their meat consumption by half, it would be the equivalent of taking 50 million cars off the road. And the water used to raise the grain especially to feed beef is depleting the Ogallala aquifer.

    I just read Primal Blueprint today (at my chiropractor’s recommendation) and was sorry to see that some of the foods I’ve been relying on are on the ****list.

    Currently, I eat a vegetarian diet that includes local organic eggs. But according to Primal Blueprint, it looks like I may have to lose the beans and oatmeal. *sigh*

    Really, though, as far as water supplies and temperature are concerned — the last thing people need to be doing right now is upping their meat consumption.

    1. read Lierre Kieth’s “The Vegetarian Myth” and get over the “animals are polluting and wasting water crap.Also, read Mark’s last few posts about “Can we feed the world on PB?”

  150. I would have to know who is really funding this so-called study. As mentioned before. This is far from any sort of reliable double-blind study, so is suspect to begin with. There used to be studies that said smoking was a relaxing was to relieve stress.

  151. I’ll be the 2384702894379th person to say that was brilliant and hilarious! Thank you for making science fun!

    I’m going out to lunch with my co-workers tomorrow and have already identified the steak I’m going to eat.

  152. You had me at ‘lactating penguins’ (where the hell did you come up with that analogy?).
    I’ve long been suspicious of this self reporting stuff. I’ve witnessed it in action with a few friends. Excellent deconstruction.

    Just goes to show, you should always question everything.

  153. Wow.. I actually participated in the nurses health study for over 20 years. I can tell you for a fact that while I didn’t intentionally lie about what I ate, the information I provided was not necessarily accurate. And yes I probably wrote down what I thought was the right thing, not necessarily what I did. My guess is every other nurse did the same… I was recruited last year to participate in a very detailed nutrional study by the same group. I declined because I wasn’t interested in spending a lot of time on it. Hoping this next study will provide better data for all of us

  154. Just in time for me to send it off to my friends who think I’ve gone off the deep end.

    Mark, how did you know I would be getting e-mails about the CNN story!
    So many people are worried about me!
    I have told everyone that for every story/link they send me, they have to read the link I send them in return. At least 6 people will be directed to this article tonight!
    Love this site!

  155. Hi.. Thanks for this good post about the fallacies of questionnaire driven “research”. The finding was that eating one serving a day lead to 21% increase in mortality, not a single serving, although many many media got that wrong. What bothered me was the tracking of mortalilty: The ascertainment of death has been documented in previous studies.11 Briefly, deaths were identified by reports from next of kin, via postal authorities, or by searching the National Death Index, and at least 95% of deaths were identified.11 The cause of death was determined after review by physicians and were primarily based on medical records and death certificates. So they looked at 10,000 charts ? What about people who changed their diet one way or another ? Massaging data does not produce reality !

  156. I think an important FACT has been missed in all this. As noted in that chart those who were smokers ate more red meat. The LOGICAL conclusion is that people who smoke are given free bacon and steaks ALL the time. PASS THE MENTHOLS PLEASE!

  157. I didn’t get ‘hot’ at all about the reports on this study. I just figure: all the more red meat for ME! If someone wants to believe in some convoluted, illogical, disjointed data points, that’s fine with me. For me, the proof is in the puddin…er pemmican! (Thanks, Mark, et al, for outlining some sanity in this latest foray by the diet dictocrats (Thanks to Sally Fallon for the diet dictocrats moniker!)

  158. This study doesn’t prove a thing & is likely very wrong in it’s conclusion. I am still going to eat lots of grass fed beef!

  159. Great post. As usual I find the responses as entertaining as the articles.
    I am always curious as to why someone runs a study like these. What is the gain in isolating just one food ? If the goal is public safety , then I would expect a study of all the major food groups so as to not make a mistake. What if meat does kill you , but soy kills you faster ? A study like this could run the risk of getting people to switch from meat to a more lethal diet .
    Billy , I enjoyed your counter response very much . You obviously have a distain for people eating meat , and I hope you realize that this clouds your argument as much as our meat eating biases clouds ours, but I get worried(and bored ) when everyone is in perfect agreement. The biggest flaw I see in the charts is the ridiculously low caloric intake. Well below RSDA. That is probably my biggest reason for questioning the study, however , I have not read the study , and you did say the study covered many of these questions , so I will read it. Thank you again for your conterpoint as my initial impulse after reading this article would be to dismiss the study without examination.

    As for your dead animal comment. I read many differnent diet website’s to try to appreciate other points of view , but what I find very frustrating is that the nutrition aspect of meat eating always gets lumped in with the ethical or moral aspect. Just because something is “morally” wrong does not mean it is unhealthy. It may be , but doesn’t have to be.
    My question to all vegetarians is this : If meat is unhealthy and dangerous to eat , why do we eat it . What other creature has the original impulse to adopt a diet that would kill it? Are there any animals who have switched from animal to plant based diets by choice ? ( I actually don’t know ) It is hard to believe we would have survived and thrived on a meat eating diet if meat is so dangerous.

    Thanks for the article. So far , I will trust my instinct that good sourced meat is a healthy choice for me.

  160. Thanks, Denise! I knew if I waited a day or so someone would save me the trouble of responding to this worthless waste of money pretending to be science. Nobody could have done it better!

    I’d just like to add that for a year or so I was on the list for a major data-
    collecting company. (A weak moment led me to take pity on a nice lady who was trying to make her quota of sign-ups.) The instructions she gave me for filling out the forms was that “if none of the answers fit, just pick one.” More often than not, the truth was not among the multiple choice answers, and there was seldom even a “not applicable” option. I finally became so frustrated that I quit returning the forms. I didn’t want anyone making ANY decisions based on my responses.

  161. I am a scientist… a researcher in chemical engineering to be precise.
    I have been checking other people works (peer reviewing) for some time and I can say I have seen tons of crap coming for the reviews… You know what? You submit you paper to a journal, you get it refused for this or that reason and the you send it to another journal where you have “the friend” and you end up with a published paper which sadly becomes a “reliable source”. This does not mean it is a good paper… but it will get cited until somebody will realize it is “fake”. In medicine it seems to be very difficult to make people accept new concepts, maybe because of the long time and the huge amount of variables involved in the research that render the real meaning of the research itself a bit “confusing”. At least.. Sad.

  162. I love this article so much I am going to report it on my website. I will of coarse give full credentials to the source and a link to your site.
    great job Denise

  163. I am going to tell everyone to stop eating red meat cuz it is bad for them 😉 Not bad for me though. Maybe it will get cheaper then. haha

  164. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, but I go to a state university and my “Nutrition” professor linked the entire class to Dean Ornish’s response to this “latest episode”. Ugh. I immediately came here for the antidote. Thank god for you guys. Keep up the most excellent work – it is SO appreciated.

  165. The Minger treatment! Well done!

    It seems like many health-conscious people eat less red meat because they’ve bought into the propaganda they’ve been inundated with for decades, while those who eat more read meat (aside from the Paleo and Real Food/WAPF crowds) are thinking, what the hell, they do what they want, they smoke, they drink, they eat steak. And probably that steak is helping them cope with the rest of it.

    Just the fact that this is an observational study and people are recalling their food intake *once every four years!* should really have caught the eye of a few journalists or their editors out there, but apparently only Denise noticed. Pathetic!

  166. To the apocalyptic fearmongers and the chronically illiterate, I’ve been sharing the following lines from the Harvard Study, which is easily available at Archives of Internal Medicine:

    “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.”

    The only reason red meat would be considered “dangerous” is by association. In this highly-imperfect study, red-meat lovers were statistically more likely to: (1) live sedentary lives; (2) smoke; (3) drink; (4) be overweight; (5) eat foods choc full of empty calories; and (6) eat fewer whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

    Honestly, if you’re a fat, lazy, smoker/drinker who grazes on junk food and avoids fruits, vegetables and whole grains, maybe red meat is the least of your worries.

    1. Why don’t you quote the lines from the study where they correct for those known confounders?

      This information is stated in the study for precisely that reason (because it was accounted for), so you are quoting out of context. The known confounding factors are not a weakness of the study. The real weakness could be that there are other, undetected confounding variables.

  167. It’s like Archie Bunker once said: “Man was put on this Earth to eat meat”

  168. “Do you snore?”
    -Every night Most nights
    -A few nights a week
    -Almost never Don’t know

    obviously can’t answer that one

  169. How could an RCT be done in this case? Randomize people to eat red meat for their entire life? Causality is ridiculously tough to prove in the absence of a well designed RCT (a good example of this is the case of tobacco smoke being the cause lung cancer, which was argued successfully for many years by tobacco companies). Based on Hill’s criteria (which may be outdated) we can draw our own conclusions about causality in this case. (https://www.drabruzzi.com/hills_criteria_of_causation.htm)

    Unless there is differential misclassification (which the author of this blog suggests) the bias would be towards the null (i.e., the findings from the “red meat study” may actually be an underestimate). There are many examples of this, including this one concerning HPV and cervical cancer (https://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/171/2/164.full).

    But even if there was some differential misclassification in reporting of red meat consumption, the authors adjusted for many important factors (age; body mass index; alcohol consumption; physical activity level; smoking status; race; menopausal status and hormone use in women; family history of diabetes mellitus, myocardial infarction, or cancer; history of diabetes mellitus, hypertension, or hypercholesterolemia; and intakes of total energy, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables). Still some could argue that there may be residual confounding, but this is true for EVERY study (except perhaps RCTs, analyzed according to ITT with low dropout).
    At the end of the day, no scientific study is perfect (think about how you would design a better one!).

    I think the message from this article should be; sure, eating red meat every day and in large amounts may cause some harm. But in the grand scheme of things, it is just one other factor (out of about a billion) that we should be aware of concerning our health. And remember, the poison is almost always in the dose! (Plus if you like red meat as much as I do…the increase in risk is probably worth it!)

  170. HUH?? I stopped reading when I saw that prime rib..and went directly to my butcher.. OHHHMMMMMM

  171. Just because that study was f*cked up doesn’t mean that’s the ultimatum on animal flesh consumption..

    I have to say Mark, you’re horribly wrong about this meat thing. One of my best friends just died of a heart attack at 23 after consuming copious amounts of fish, lean organic red meat & chicken daily for the last 8+ years..

    Look up acidosis please.. Also arterial plaque.. Good luck with you ‘Community’ – you guys really need to wake up!

    1. I personally have a family friend who’s dad had colon cancer with two liver tumors. Stage 3 cancer. Under going chemo no change occured and he remained ill. Upon my friend researching how a plant diet could possibly fight cancer my friends told his dad to cut out meat and dairy. Within 8 week period is vitality restored and his liver tumors were in Necrosis. I swear this is true. First time I saw the body correcting it self with the right foods. It is a shame that people are clouded by popularity and not good science. I think people will always try to find a reason why meat is not bad for them. Again we know it has risks. Not everyone who smokes will die from smoking but it has risks.

      1. Did you know that necrosis means cell death? If his liver tumors are in necrosis, he’s in really bad shape.

    2. But there are millions of people who eat lots of fish, meat, chicken daily and don’t have heart attacks ever, or any arterial plaque. Having a heart attack at 23 is extremely rare regardless of what somebody eats. What caused it? Was it some rare disease or drug use?

  172. Really enjoyed reading Denise’s article!! Good information and excellent writing!!

  173. Here’s how you can live a healthier life:

    1) Avoid all sweets and industrialized foods for the rest of your life.

    2) Stop being a vegan or vegetarian.

    3) Avoid all grains and roots for the rest of your life.

    4) Buy a nice load of grass-fed red meat.

    5) Print out sheets of this Red Meat Consumption and Mortality “study”.

    6) Go to an open dirt area.

    7) Gather some logs

    8) Set these sheets of paper on fire to light up the logs in order to make a bond fire.

    9) Take a stick and stab it through a slice of red meat.

    10) Cook it over the fire.

    11) Enjoy the way that Grok and other cavemen have been eating and enjoying robust health for the past 2.5 million years.

  174. Oh this quote has made my day.. “this one says that red meat doesn’t just make you die of heart disease and cancer; it makes you die of everything.” :o))

  175. I dare say a fair amount of the people rejoicing on the journalistic talents of the author are doing so because it makes them feel better about their choice to support the routine, inhumane raising and slaughter of animals (represented by the mainstream industrialised meat industry) . The narcissism of modern day society knows no boundaries, this sort of article demonstrates it.

  176. Sad thing is an article like this won’t get the media coverage the doom and gloom study did. Most people outside the health field (and, unfortunately, many in the health field) will take it at face value and continue to be misinformed.

  177. hi mark,

    the red meat article has gone to cyberspace. could it get resent to my email address? i would really appreciate it. hope it’s no inconvinence. i love d what i was reading and didn’t get a chance to finish it.

    thank you,

  178. Love these articles, keep them coming!
    I actually am a member of the newest Nursing Heath Study and called to complain about the food questionaire which lumped ALL red meat consumption together (hot dogs, lunch meat, steak, etc). They told me they would break it down further in the future. I told them I mainly eat venison, which counts as red meat, and they were like “ummmmm” I am not sure what the next breakdown will be. Stupid studies!

  179. Great break-down. There’s one elephant in the room that doesn’t get enough mention when discussing red meat: its fat and what is stored in it. Animals are frequently fed pesticide-laden food. The toxic chemicals are stored in their fat and then we eat it. I believe that the extent of harm we see from red meat can be attributed to a large degree from the chemicals in it.

  180. Certainly an interesting read, but I do have a couple of questions:

    The basis of this data is in part the Nurses Health Study.

    Mark uses this study extensively to show that the primal lifestyle works.

    Why is it now being villified in this article?
    If the “very basis of the data” of the Nurses Health study, obtained by FFQ, then how can it be cited repeatedly for making a case for the primal life style?

    I like the primal life style, but I am beginning to dislike some of rather subjective and emotional debunking of studies.

    You can’t have it both ways. Either the Nurses Health Study data is good or it is bad. It can’t be both.

    The rethoric used in this analysis makes my unsure what to believe.

    1. Excellent point. I find Minger’s sarcasm offensive. As well, the use of data to support a cause is always suspect, which is what Minger is doing, by use of red herrings, straw men and selective quoting. All of the supposed weakness she found in the study are addressed in the study, and answered. Her critique is either ignorant or dishonest.

      The researchers were in principle doing objective science, despite the ad hominem and unsubstantiated attacks against them in Minger’s blog and these comments.

      1. Yeah well it’s a good thing that offending somebody is not against the law.

        Suck it up, buttercup.

  181. I love Mark’s Daily Apple for just this reason. I can show my friends the scientific approach to de bunking the terrible information that we get from the media and goverment.
    I appreciate all the work that you do for us to find the latest and correct information for our way of living.
    Keep up the good work 🙂

  182. As a long-time vegetarian who ate so much wheat and dairy for so many years that it gave me crippling psoriatic arthritis 18 months ago, I can say conclusively that the paleo diet is the way to go, and the trouble is in the grains not the meat.

    I have cured myself of quite a few so-called incurable niggles this past year, including 99% of the arthritis, using no drugs, just paleo diet, fasting and liver flushing and a few other natural methods.

    Having said that, to answer whether there is a reason why red meat is not so good sometimes (and I stress ‘sometimes’), I might have an idea, and not one I’ve seen mentioned much… For the physical body, I think it’s fine, and definitely what we are adapted to as a species, but there is still the slight ‘earthing’ factor of meat; a slight ‘lowering’ of the access to subtler states of consciousness.

    Most of the time this is of no importance, and often even a plus in this modern world, but if you already have some sort of autoimmune condition, the root causes can often be emotional/spiritual in nature, and a break from meat can actually help with accessing those levels. I went paleo, but then substituted meat for pulses for the time being for that reason, and it has helped me to clear the last traces of problems.

    Many can get away with eating good meat forever and even cure those degenerative conditions while eating it, as it’s so much more natural than grains etc, but if you still have a niggling problem, it’s just an idea… 🙂

    1. Dairy proteins have effects on joints and arthritic problems and some night shade related foods as well. This can easily be eliminated without resorting to paleo.

  183. Marks thanks for sharing Denise’s article. It still never ceases to amaze me how gullible our society is. (Well if it’s coming from a doctor, scientist or politician then it must be gospel. (I think they may be learning when it comes to politicians, though!) ;-}

    1. Good point.

      We are gullible because we leap to believe someone with no formal training who has never done research over people who have Ph.D.s and have devoted their lives to figuring out the truth. The great thing about science is that it is true whether you believe it or not.

      1. Appeal to authority is lame. It will never make a flawed argument correct and it will never make a correct argument flawed.

  184. Beautiful! Simply beautiful! 100% on the money! Will be watching for her upcoming publication.

    Thank you!

  185. Great article Denise.

    I love the way you cut through all the hype. What a fabulous sense of humour you have and a great way with words.

    Popping over to your website straight away.

    Best wishes


  186. Great review. I guess this gives more credence to the idea that we don’t know exactly what causes illness in a lot of instances. One step closer to the truth! Thanks Denise!

  187. Thank you for a concise look at the study. It is so easy to jump on a bandwagon based on a sound bite, especially when “science” is there to back it up. If we never questioned the current thinking, the world would still be flat and the sun would revolve around it.

  188. These bad studies are easy to take down. The real problem is Marion Nestle’s new book proving CI/CO. That’s in Nature. This is the argument that will halt paleo/primal adoption. And no one’s taking that one on at all.

      1. Calories in/Calories Out. Nestle’s new book is a very careful and well-argued defense of conventional wisdom, that is, the lipid hypothesis. Yesterday it was rapturously reviewed by Nature. Paleo/Primal/LCHF is currently dead. Nestle’s knifed it, but no one here seems to know that. All our progress will be overturned once Nestle’s book starts rolling out mainstream. She’s a Very Serious Player who advises governments, public health agencies, medical folks, and she can’t be ignored. Who has the chops to do it?

        1. Why on earth would that kill paleo? In essence, paleo is about eating real food and avoiding processed crap. Eat meat, eggs, vegetables, fruit, tubers, some nuts (agnostic on dairy, although I eat hard cheeses). What on God’s green earth does calories in/calories out have to do with that?

  189. Mark I can’t thank you enough for posting this. I actually recieved this study via email from The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (as I am an RD). Obviously as a paleo RD I don’t really agree with a lot of the stuff they say. But this really made me angry especially since they should know better. They are all educated people and know how realiable a study is. This is a joke. Thanks again. I think I’ll keep eating my steaks and bacon.

  190. https://www.livescience.com/19039-human-species-china-cave.html

    Mysterious Chinese Fossils May Be New Human Species

    The scientists are calling them the “Red Deer Cave People,” because they cooked extinct red deer in their namesake cave.

    “They clearly had a taste for venison, with evidence they cooked these large deer in the cave,” Curnoe said.
    Carbon dating, a technique that estimates the radioactive decay of carbon in samples of charcoal found with the fossils helped establish their age. The charcoal also showed they knew how to use fire. Stone artifacts found at the Maludong site also suggest they were toolmakers.

    Guess eating all that venison killed them off – ya think

  191. What are the best ways to cook red meat, if high temp is bad? Is cooking to well-done only bad at high temp, or is it bad in general? Specifically, if you’re cooking a stew at low temp over a long period of time? thanks!

    1. When not cooked Vitamin C is preserved.
      Others? I think air dried meat may preserve Vit C too, but not sure. Anyone?
      Beef Tartar, Yum!

    2. Hi Jess,
      Meat is best cooked low and slow, as it is called in BBQ circles.
      An oven will work just fine for that.

      On a grill use indirect heat, to avoid fat dripping into fire.

      Steaks are seared at high heat, but with avoidance of flareups on a grill, and then finished to the desired core temp indirectly or in the oven.

      And don’t cook it all the way through, with either method. It just tastes like crap 🙂

  192. Range Magazine (https://www.rangemagazine.com) has long had a section devoted to “Red Meat Survivors”. Each quarterly issue has biographical vignettes of people who have eaten red meat throughout their lifetimes. At age 77, I’m not yet old enough to be included with all those in their 80s and 90s.

    So far, so good, though.

  193. I’m dissappointed that your comments seem more ideologically driven than reasonably scientific. Of course observational studies have value. Randomized control trials are great, but we have tonnes of good science from other types of studies.

    As for the problems with questionnaires, this should be considered in the context of the strength of the impact and the potential for bias, not only inaccuracy, as non-differential bias will not create data showing an association by itself.

    1. In this particular case, it seems to me the errors (or potential errors) in the data gathering (seriously – 1200 calories a day???), the potential for so many other confounders that are not taken into account and the relatively weak correlation (as compared to say observational studies linking tobacco and smoking which others have brought up as a silly straw man) makes the whole thing pretty close to meaningless.

      1. It’s a multivariate model, so the lowest caloric intake (NHS Q1) which you are mentioning 1202/d is adjusted for in the analysis. Which other confounders which might create bias are you referring to? Example?

        The results are not insignificant, in my opinion. There seems to be a poor understanding of epi in the comments, not surprising, because even most science majors don’t study one course, and most people aren’t even science majors…

  194. Atta girl!

    What would we do without Denise(and others) debunking the bad science?

    Keep up the good work!

  195. If we are not supposed to eat animals then why are they made out of meat?

  196. They forgot more than the bun in the “meat-study”.
    I cannot see any account for the stuff that normally goes with hamburgers, considering that 50% of “red meat” is consumed just as hamburgers in the US.

    We are missing soda (Coke/7Up..), Bun, Ketchup, Mustard (both with high sugar!) and, the Elephant in the room , CHIPS or French Fries , that usually takes up 70% of a McDonald-plate….
    Why bother counting “whole grain slices” and leave these well known culprits, including the transfats, to walk free?
    These people are scientests…
    But leaving out obviously significant things in any study makes it insignificant. In other words this study is pure nonsense!
    Check out this lady instead:

  197. Implicit in the argument here is that correlational research means invalid conclusions (e.g., the reversal of hormone replacement benefit). I think the irony is that this argument itself is a correlation. You overlook the correlation between smoking and lung cancer or obesity and diabetes. There is also the correlation between o-ring failure and temperature that was excused as a correlation, then the Challenger space shuttle exploded on the unusually cold launch day. Unless you’re comfortable exercising extreme confirmation bias it is essential to not only look at confirmatory cases, but also disconfirmatory cases. There are plenty of faulty conclusions from correlations (e.g., ice cream causes polio) but there are plenty of correct conclusions from correlations as well. The paper in question showed that when diet, exercise, smoking and many other relevant factors were equal, red meat predicted health problems and premature death. The paper is far from the last word on the issue, but it replicates clinical (i.e., experimental) findings and suggests a reconsideration of common dietary habits. The authors themselves do not advocate removing red meat from your diet, but they do suggest limiting red meat consumption to 3-4 servings a week rather than 1-2 servings a day.

  198. Thank you! Personally I will take the way my body looks, feels and performs over what any study says and yes the article found its way to my email box via many “concerned” friends.

  199. Doesnt say you funded the study.
    Also eating anything loaded with chemicals and crap will damage the human body eventually. Eat organic when you can folks.

  200. This is just more people trying to make sense of unpopular news. Minger misguided information is there only to make people feel good about their bad habits. Honestly I wish those who don’t take the science seriously a whole lot of luck. Sugar is not the only cause of cardiovascular problems as meat again and again is linking more evidence to western disease. Minger loves to direct people’s attention towards other issues. She is great at red herrings. Hey vegans get heart disease see…look at this study, look their homosystein levels are high. Honestly she never tells you that getting enough b12 in your diet would solve that problem. She has no science credentials. Still making people scared of carbs. Again people will listen to what makes them feel better. Oh don’t worry you won’t get cancer or heart disease keep eating that way I will write something nice to make you feel more comfortable. This is total BS and people suffer serious health issues do to their poor dietary choices and you can’t blame white flower and soda for all of it. It is just a shame that people don’t exercise better judgement.

  201. Regarding pink slime, I’ll never buy ground beef at the grocery store again. I’ve been buying Costco organic ground beef. Unfortunately, it’s not grass fed, but hopefully it doesn’t have that nasty stuff in it. I’ll have to ask next time I go there.

  202. When I consider the ongoing debate over “red meat” I can’t help but parallel the debate over global warming and my take has always been that while the science isn’t clear and there are good arguments on both sides, wouldn’t taking the cautious approach be best while scientists sort it all out..so, while the red meat debate rages on, how about just eating fish and poultry for now?? What are the health benefits of “red meat” that you can’t get from fish and poultry?

  203. I think it’s great to delve deeper into the article, and I DO believe that there’s a great distinction between grass-fed and conventionally grown meat and processed meats, BUT i wasn’t pleased with the premise that observational studies do not produce valid conclusions. After all, the science of climate change is done through observational studies—we can’t really produce laboratory-controlled experiments in a large scale. There are a lot of problems with this questionnaire, but this was published in a peer-to-peer journal and there’s a rigorous process involved. So I’m not sure who’s the bad guy here, the folks that ran the study or the media for the sensationalist stories. The whole thing is kinda sad because people continue to be misinformed and still don’t know what’s healthy food.

  204. I was effectively tempted to stop reading after you made a complete mess of your deconstruction of an observational study. Luckily your cheeky writing blinds your readers from noticing the slight of hand.

    While you are correct that an observational study can not prove anything, they are quite capable of providing solid bodies of “evidence” as is the point of their undertaking.

    As a researches states the study “provides clear evidence that regular consumption of red meat, especially processed meat, contributes substantially to premature death,” you follow with the statement that it is innately impossible for a [observational study] to do that.


    That is exactly the reason for which these studies are carried out in the scientific community–evidence and inference. The the researcher doesn’t say proof, he says evidence. You put the word proof in his mouth to mesh with your own agenda, manipulating it to make it seem as if he was stating he’d proved something.

    And as for your statement that observation is the first step of the scientific process–false, on all accounts. The first step is the formation of a question.

    Furthermore, in “lessons from the past” you use an incredibly incorrect tactic in basing your argument off the idea that since correlation does not mean causation then correlation must signify lack of causation. This logical fallacy is more absurd then the original “post hoc ergo propter hoc” fallacy you are arguing against when given that fact that correlation does allude to the potential existence of a countervailing causative variable. You have simply made a logical fallacy out of a logical fallacy.

    But alas, you clearly have no grasp of distinctions between evidence and proof, nor the actually methodology in which even the first step of the scientific method is performed, nor the principles defining causality patterns. But I don’t blame you. You’re not a scientist. You’re just pretending to be smarter than one.

  205. Give me red meat. Even it the conclusions of this study were true, those extra five or so years are years spent getting abused by the aides in the assisted-living facility we will most likely be in.

  206. Maybe this “scare” will bring down the price of meat! More for me!

  207. Again, appeal to authority is lame, as is pretty much your entire post. Denise made many valid points, none of which you addressed in any way. Probably because you can’t.

    1. My last post was addressed to Joe, in case there was any confusion on that score.

  208. Goodness. In this study, the groups are not even randomized to make sure equal numbers of smokers, diabetics, amount of exercise are in each meat categories. Any researcher will tell you that this study can only be used to form a hypothesis. A further randomized trial would be required to prove this theory. Furthermore all cardiologists know that people who are smokers, diabetics, and don’t exercise have a much higher risk of CV Death. This study just supports the wealth of data that shows smoking, diabetes and a sedentary lifestyle have a much higher rate of CV disease and death.

  209. Thanks for that posting, I have been hounded by my VEGAN relatives that I am not eating correctly. I guess the last laugh will be on them after they eat their soy burger!

  210. Ever heard of the french paradox? People in rural france often eat lots of saturated fat from the products they locally make or the game they kill. Yet they have one of the longest life expectancies and lowest incidence of heart disease! I think people spend way too much time analysing what is good or bad for them. Red meat will not kill you. Just be sure to balance your diet with plenty of fresh fruit and veggies to get all the essential vitamins and minerals you need

    1. When those studies were done the french ate very little calories. Less calories less inflammation. More calories more health problems. Even studies done on increasing life span by eating less calories.

      The French were forced to eat a sparse diet post WWII.

      Thus disease was low for a while.

      Now with rich foods the French are getting fatter and sicker.

  211. As a medical researcher I find your article perplexing in its intent to entertain and sell red meat over understanding the overarching message of this important research. The study involved a very large cohort of people over a very long period of time. Self-reporting is always an issue in these studies which is implicitly understood and does not need to be explicitly stated. Referring to previous studies is common and is used for brevity. Your issue with this study being observational rather than experimental is bizarre: are you recommending we place some people on a high protein diet, others on a high carb diet, then switch them after 20 years and see who dies earlier? In analysing this research you do not seem to see the wood for the trees – despite reporting issues, the breadth of this massive study underlies a commonsense statement that humans are not biologically designed to eat red meat every single day. Writing a blinkered rant littered with exclamation marks and italics does not really address the matter.

    1. “commonsense statement that humans are not biologically designed to eat red meat every single day”.


  212. As an exercise physiologist I’m always debating (another word for a friendly argument) with epidemiologists about this stuff…good post Mark

  213. Even if the study reflected reality, how can you ever know if you yourself are one of the few people that will be killed by meat, or one of the even smaller number of people that will be killed by vegetarianism?

  214. Lovely, Denise.
    Are we forgetting that all the subjects were doctors and nurses? Some of the biggest liars, and biggest drug takers (not on the questionaire), in the land? People with a reason to lie, deny, or boast about “unhealthy” habits?
    Imagine that the biggest eaters, with their high BMI, used statins as their alabi for unhealthy living.
    That would account for the correspondence of low cholesterol and high mortality (common sense would too, but let’s not go there right now).

  215. Mark, two things: 1) I found it curious that you essentially downplayed the “extra 20%” as being a trivial increase (i.e., an additional 20% of 5% risk is 6%), yet you make a 29% increase for risk of heart disease in women taking estrogen seem extraordinary. I think the logic of the former could be applied to the latter. 2) You seem to really tear into the Nurses’ study in this post, but you have extolled it in other posts, going so far as to take findings from it to say, in effect, “this study corroborates the Primal way”. After reading this post, I wouldn’t put much stock into making conclusions based on this study’s data. Are these incidences of cherry picking data? One day “this shows Primal living is good,” then the next day, “this study has flaws” and hope nobody remembers what you said the day before?

    Overall, I think you’re right about the subject matter. I just don’t like the inconsistency.

      1. David, thanks for pointing out that the author is not Mark. Admittedly, I did not notice that, and the distinction should have been made. However, it still doesn’t make my claims any less valid. Obviously, if her entry is posted as a blog entry, it is Sisson-approved; therefore, he agrees with what is being said. I simply find this post starkly contrasted against previous blog posts where the Nurse’s study is used to give a “thumbs up” to the primal way.

  216. As an operations research analyst and statistician I am sorely disheartened once again that members of the supposed scientific field would release such poorly supported conclusions. This report is exactly one of the reasons people are so confused about what to eat (I mean when the “experts” draw unsubstantiated conclusions on a daily basis, what is the average guy/gal supposed to think). It’s very embarrassing to those in my field who believe in truly unbiased, independent, transparent, and defensible studies and reporting. Bottom line – this report makes completely unsubstantiated conclusions and states them as if they were fact (with their extreme assumptions and limitations hidden deep in the back where the general public will never look).

  217. Interesting to me that she pulls stats from a study that actually supports the claim that eating meat doesn’t have negative health effects. And this study has been debunked before.

  218. Jon – if you want a vegan lifestyle great ! If you have a problem with the feedlots and other ways animals are mistreated … Great , so do I. Don’t make nutritiona judgements based on that. Any diet where you need to supplement something (like.b12) is not a complete diet. Maybe we are not designed to eat red meat everyday, but we are ment to eat meat. Again, looking at our digestive tracks and teeth, one can debate that it may be only a small amount , but as I wrote earlier , the first humans would have never chosen to eat meat if it was unhealthy.

  219. Sorry , accidently hit send to soon.
    I have many friends who have very different diets . If being vegan , or vegetarian works for you, you feel great and check out healthy with your doc , that is awesome. I eat a lot of local farm raised meat, fish , pork , and chicken. I balance it with lots of vegetables, fruits and oats. Unless my doctor and mirror is lying , I look and feel lean and healthy.
    Do what works for you , but keep ideology out of nutrition. I think the most glaring problem is the way these reports are presented by the media . Using words like death in the headlines naturally will cause concerns , and unfortunately, these headlines are the only thing many people really read.

  220. I suggest you all go over to read Gary Taubes’ excellent response to this study. No matter how much lipstick you slather on this pig, it still says “Oink”.

  221. “the great thing about science is that it is true whether you believe it or not .”
    It was considered truth , punishable by death or imprisonment once , that the world was flat. It was a fact for a long time that we had nine planets. Margerine was healthier than butter. We are constantly learning , and scientific “truths” or “facts ” change all the time. There are very few absolute truths in science.

  222. It’s just the vegetarians trying to scare us meat eaters. I don’t bother paying attention to those studies, just my doctor 🙂

  223. A very interesting study. It seems that four major variables were strongly correlated with heavy read meat eaters.
    1) Lack of excersise
    2) Lack of vitamin suppliments
    3) Smoking
    4) High calorie intake.

    Did this study measure the real causitive reasons for premature death or spurious correlation. The differences in these variables were significant yet the difference in the premature death rates between low or now red meat eaters and heavy.
    Like the article says this is a precursor and creates a hypothesis. I think its hypothesis is invalid.

  224. Not sure why anybody ever cites the Nurses’ Health Study. Even quacks like Andrew Weil have sniffed it out for what it is. This post illustrates all the weak points in questionnaires and particularly metadata in any way related to questionnaires or correlation. After seeing Hu’s name in my all my time reading studies online, I know to disregard. ANYHOW; though it was a bit tongue-in-cheeky for my taste, superb article!

  225. TL; DR: This study, while not perfect, is some of the best evidence we are going to get and we should pay attention to it.

    While I think this author makes some good points, I don’t think she fully considers the steps taken in this study to establish causation and minimize confounding variables.

    First, because this study is longitudinal, it is more pseudo-experimental, and can make claims about causation. Because we know the temporal order of events, i.e., people ate meat THEN got sick or not, we know it’s likely not the case that these people were sick anyway or that their sickness somehow led to more meat-eating.

    Second, these samples, NHS and HPFS, are somewhat well known. The whole point of using these samples is that they are homogenous and thus confounding variables are minimized. These people are roughly equivalent in terms of job stress, free time, socioeconomic status, access to health info, etc. Yes, they are not all identical people, but it is a good step in the direction of being able to generalize.

    So yes, one can play the ultimate skeptic with regard to this information, but it is unlikely that the perfect study will ever be conducted where people are randomized to meat eating, vegetarian, organic meat, etc. eating conditions, and followed for this length of time in these numbers. It doesn’t really make sense to me to hold out for the perfect study, rather it makes sense to hedge based on the best available information at a given point in time. That is to say, cut down red meat consumption.

    1. I’m not sure I agree. I “hedged” for 25 years as a vegetarian based on the best available info at the time – and that was whole grain, high fiber, low fat, etc. and I just got sicker and sicker. Now I eat lots of red meat, veggies and saturated fats and I’m in the best shape of my life, perfect lab values and blood sugar and blood pressure stabilized at new safe levels.

      1. Did you eat according to the latest scientific knowledge about diet, or according to the latest – often distorted – presentation of the scientific findings in the media? My guess is the latter, since – unless you are a scientist, it’s hard to gain accept to the scientific literature.

        Today it’s a little easier, using Google Scholar ()https://scholar.google.com/, which I highly recommend. It’s much, much better to get your information from here, than from any media, including this website.

      2. Did you eat according to the latest scientific knowledge about diet, or according to the latest – often distorted – presentation of the scientific findings in the media? My guess is the latter, since – unless you are a scientist, it’s hard to gain accept to the scientific literature.

        Today it’s a little easier, using Google Scholar, which I highly recommend. It’s much, much better to get your information from here, than from any media, including this website.

  226. Thank you for taking the time to research and explain this craziness. I was a vegetarian for over 15 years and it almost killed me. When I began eating meat again, it was miraculous. I ate the right vegetables and took all the proper supplements. I was not eating according to what my body needed. I know how to eat and now know that some people need red meat.

  227. I hope a lot of people will quit eating beef. The price is way up and that would help bring the price down. I buy a half of a cow once a year. I’m lucky because I only have to drive a short way and it’s grass fed/finished. I notice the price of conventional beef is almost as high now as the grass fed.

  228. Denise Minger, you look extremely cute, but did you ever study statistics and/or philosophy of science?

  229. I would love to tell people that eating Red Meat is a health but it isn’t.

  230. Thank you for this – when I first read about this “study” my initial reaction was to try to find the truth behind the info, of course MDA brought us the info we needed!

    BTW, my favorite line: “…enough to make any omnivore feel like punching Al Gore for ever inventing the internet…”

  231. …The key is get the QUALITY …color has nothing really to do with it>>>

  232. I’m leaning towards a paleolithic diet myself, but I cannot take Denise’s post seriously.
    It’s scary how most of the commenteers here have a preconceived notion about red meat being healthy, and therefore sees Denise’s post as solid, while it’s not. Rather it’s an example of a layman’s misunderstanding of what science can and can’t do.
    I suggest everyone here take a course in statistics, then a course in philosophy of science, and then read the research paper Denise is “dismantling” here themselves. Unless you fail the courses, you will be able to see why this post is rather silly. And this is not a matter of opinion, but the trust of the matter.

    1. Stefan,

      I’ve had more than “a course” in statistics, and what Denise has written parsing the study is more viable than than you give her credit for. Observational studies are notoriously subject to observer biases and reporting error, to say nothing of the uncontrolled and/or untested variables which can often have a greater association to the results that the specific entity they were looking at. While observational studies can often provide an interesting starting point to develop a theory which can then be tested in a truly scientific fashion, they certainly aren’t reliable enough to make sweeping and generalized determinations like “Red Meat Can Kill You”. There are simply too many places for statistical error to creep into the final results. Even if the observers were pristine in their motives and methods and the self-reporting study participants were scrupulously honest and accurate (neither of which is 100% likely), the MOST that can be drawn from a study such as this, is an association between the factor(s) being studied and the result. A huge chasm exists between “association” and “causation” or even “risk”.

      1. Montie, you are absolutely right, saying “Red Meat Can Kill You” would be a mistaken generalization. But the study never said that. Did you actually read the study, or only the hyped misrepresentation of it in the media?

        Here is the summary of the study, in the words of the scientists, not a silly journalist:

        Red Meat Consumption and Mortality
        Results From 2 Prospective Cohort Studies

        An Pan, PhD; Qi Sun, MD, ScD; Adam M. Bernstein, MD, ScD; Matthias B. Schulze, DrPH; JoAnn E. Manson, MD, DrPH; Meir J. Stampfer, MD, DrPH; Walter C. Willett, MD, DrPH; Frank B. Hu, MD, PhD
        Arch Intern Med. Published online March 12, 2012. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2011.2287

        Background Red meat consumption has been associated with an increased risk of chronic diseases. However, its relationship with mortality remains uncertain.

        Methods We prospectively observed 37 698 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (1986-2008) and 83 644 women from the Nurses’ Health Study (1980-2008) who were free of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer at baseline. Diet was assessed by validated food frequency questionnaires and updated every 4 years.

        Results We documented 23 926 deaths (including 5910 CVD and 9464 cancer deaths) during 2.96 million person-years of follow-up. After multivariate adjustment for major lifestyle and dietary risk factors, the pooled hazard ratio (HR) (95% CI) of total mortality for a 1-serving-per-day increase was 1.13 (1.07-1.20) for unprocessed red meat and 1.20 (1.15-1.24) for processed red meat. The corresponding HRs (95% CIs) were 1.18 (1.13-1.23) and 1.21 (1.13-1.31) for CVD mortality and 1.10 (1.06-1.14) and 1.16 (1.09-1.23) for cancer mortality. We estimated that substitutions of 1 serving per day of other foods (including fish, poultry, nuts, legumes, low-fat dairy, and whole grains) for 1 serving per day of red meat were associated with a 7% to 19% lower mortality risk. We also estimated that 9.3% of deaths in men and 7.6% in women in these cohorts could be prevented at the end of follow-up if all the individuals consumed fewer than 0.5 servings per day (approximately 42 g/d) of red meat.

        Conclusions Red meat consumption is associated with an increased risk of total, CVD, and cancer mortality. Substitution of other healthy protein sources for red meat is associated with a lower mortality risk.

        . . .

        As you can see, the researchers are not the ones making bold claims like “Red Meat Can Kill You”.

    2. Stefan wrote: “I’m leaning towards a paleolithic diet myself”

      Cool, what do you find most impressive about Paleolithic diets?

  233. I am still curious if anyone has done a causative study (or knows of one) that links eating red meat with cancer. I have heard all the hype about the “China Study”, but isn’t that also an observational study?

  234. when i stopped eating meat and allowing traditionally prepared grains and legumes into my diet, my acne went away and my energy levels increased. when i started eating meat or other animal products again, my acne came back. I take this as my body telling me that meat isn’t good for me. just sayin…

  235. Who did this study? Someone from the fishing industry perhaps…

  236. Thank you fir sharing this!!! Very true!
    Funny thing about all this hype is what about sugar? Has anyone read about or heard the facts on what sugar is doing or causing? Im a little more concerned about alien viruses in my food than eating red meat. I need the iron. I will not stop eating it. I know better!

  237. Excellent analysis and break down. I’ll be pointing several people to this link in the weeks and possibly months to come.

  238. My scientist trained husband has taught me to be so careful about correlation and causation. He constantly reminds me, “Correlation does not prove causation.” And it’s very concerning to me how many blogposts and news articles I read (some well meant, others just wanting to prove a point) where they base everything on a correlation. I also find it very disturbing that a study from Harvard, of all places, is purporting truth and “scientific evidence” from a basic observational study–breaking some of the most basic scientific principles, such as correlation doesn’t prove causation and generating evidence from an observational study, as you wisely pointed out. It’s frustrating and also quite sad! It seems like desire for prestige or moments of fame or certain agendas have taken over the desire for truth to be well-researched and known. And lumping all red meat together like that…goodness! I don’t believe for a moment that the homemade hamburger I ate (made from beef from organic, grass-fed cows that came to me straight from the farm) is going to negatively affect my body in the same way as a fast food hamburger with its poor quality beef and loads of additives. IF they actually PROVED scientifically that red meat did indeed increase our risk for diseases, my first question would be is it red meat…or is it the antibiotics and hormones in the meat? the corn the cows are fed? How about a no-hormone/antibiotic/pesticide grass-fed red meat vs. conventional (with whatever antibiotics/hormones are commonly used) corn-fed red meat study? I’d love to see a quality research study done on that! We already know the make-up of the meats are different, so chances are they affect our bodies differently.

    1. Christy wrote: “IF they actually PROVED scientifically that red meat did indeed increase our risk for diseases…”

      If your husband had taught you better, you would know that science cannot prove anything. Science can only disprove. I recommend reading Popper to begin with. Some key terms to understand is falsification, the demarcation problem, and the problem of induction.

      1. You might seem a little more credible if you actually had a criticism that could be evaluated. You claim just one stats course and one philosophy of science class and voila, you can tell the work is shoddy. I call bullcrap. If you can point out the flaws in meaningful detail (not generalized crap that means nothing), I’m all ears. Until then, you are just flapping your gums and moving air saying nothing.

  239. As a budding social scientist I find the information on how bad science is done to be much more meaningful that the red-meat-is-the-death-of-us-all clap trap.

  240. noone distinguishes betweeen grassfed grassfinished meat and commercial meat, pasdtured eggs and butter and non pastured, organic vegetables and fruits and non organic, excluding glutens and nightshades if theis is a problem for you, and excluding or including excitotoxins. Unless a study distinguishes betwen these they are actually not testing anything. Too many confounding variables

  241. Too funny… I too just wrote about this same thing. I took an article from a friend titled “Why Become A Vegetarian” ( at https://aloe1.com/index.php/blog ) and contrasted it with a meat eaters response. Of course, discussing the great referenced research was necessary. But your critique of the study results was much more thorough. Thanks.

  242. “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.”

    I ask, what is a 5% risk? 5% of what? Say I’m 50. So what are my chances of dying tomorrow, or this year or next year? I honestly don’t know. So the unknown chances are increased 20%. What exactly does that translate into?

    Moreover as someone said, I enjoy certain foods. All of them pose risks: salmonella from fowl, mercury from fish, E coli from vegetables. Where does all this fear and loathing end?

  243. I just tried to post a reply to a comment at the bottom of this Huff Post article TWICE:

    Both times I stated that the Harvard study did not provide sufficient data to determine causation, and both times I cited Denise’s article for further reading.

    Both times, it was not approved.

    Seems the “independent media” is *in* on this game.

  244. Regardless of whether red meat is deleterious to one’s health, red meat is a big waste of resources. It takes 16 pounds of grain to produce one pound of red meat.
    MP Gunderson, author of The Planet Keepers.

  245. It takes 0 pounds of grain to produce grass fed beef. See the website for Polyface Farm, to see how beef can be raised with out grain, growth hormones, antibiotics, and very low energy input, pasture raised beef and pork also require less water than the industrial CAFO model. Grass feed beef is healthier for you than grain and antibiotic fed beef and sustainable too.

  246. I read this article on CNN last week. I still went home that night and had a delicious pound of steak for dinner (I follow a modified warrior diet). I love eating buffalo, elk, grass fed beef, and fattier pieces of chicken and other game birds. I honestly feel better when I eat this way, and have way more health issues (sleeplessness, stomach cramps, mental fogginess, tired) when I eat a conventional diet, high on grains and lean white meats.

    The problem is, if people followed a primal diet, the corn growers of America would go bankrupt. No more cornmeal, corn syrup, or the ever deadly HFCS (which I believe is in over 90% of packaged foods). Farmer would have to stop using modified seeds, and we’d have a much larger supply of organic vegetables available.

    When I read studies like this, I shrug them off. As someone said earlier, who’s funding the research? My body knows what it wants, and I didn’t have to go to Harvard to figure that out. Great article, and keep up the good work!

  247. Perhaps every participant in the study should also mention how old their parents were when they died.

  248. what is your thought on 100% grass fed beef from time to time,say bi-weekly ?

  249. I asked the meat man at the supermarket about pink slime. He said it was basically small bits of meat and that it was not treated with ammonia. He said the media was creating fear, but not truth.

    His store stopped using it because of customer pressure, but he feels sad about this, because now all of that (millions of pounds) will be wasted.

    I am not so sure if it will be wasted. It will surely end up somewhere else. Animal food, etc.

    The point is moot for me, because I never buy ground beef, but, I am curious. What is the truth on the pink slime?

  250. It won’t be wasted. It will be sold to off-brands that don’t have high public profiles.

    ie, Kroger drops it, but Smart & Final picks it up.

  251. As so often seen many times statistics can lie or construe information to convey a desired result. Just remember all things in moderation!! Great comeback article!

  252. Excellent work Denise! You are a great writer and thinker. Thanks for enlightening us!

  253. I Love my Grassfed red meat, as well as my RAW milk, Cream, Yogurt, butter, and farm fresh eggs, yummy!!!

  254. Seriously people c’mon, Mcdonalds meat is bad for you. A steak or ground beef cooked at home, is healthy and does not promote pre mature death. Your life choices cause premature death (ex: smoking,drugs,NO exercise, eating fast food everyday)…..
    Thats like saying weight loss shakes help you lose weight and maintain your ideal weight. Sure you might lose 10-15 if you are a big person, but exercise is the main factor is assisting with weight loss not stupid FAD weight loss shakes, c’mon people. Healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle makes you live longer, not consuming less calories and less red meat! Eating red meat is not going to kill you faster. Use your head!
    Eat what you want and do regular exercise and your golden!!!

  255. I have been on the Primal diet for about 2mos., and have lost 9#. But by cholesterol is still too high. I was hoping to stay off statin drugs, but I feel like I don’t have any choice. Do you have any suggestions?

    Thank you! MLG

    P.S. My digestion is so much better than it used to be.

    1. Mary, depending on which subcategory of your total cholesterol is high, you may not have a problem at all. Now, I am not giving medical advice, but you would be wise to make sure that your doctor requests a full lipid profile that includes both apolipoproteins A and B. ApoA and ApoB are essentially further subdivisions of LDL. While LDL by itself has been shown to be a questionable indicator of heart health, the ratio of ApoB to ApoA is a much more strongly correlated with the risk of myocardial infarction. In other words, if ApoB/ApoA is fairly high, you might be in trouble. If it’s low, you’re probably fit as a fiddle. Do a search on Pubmed, or any other science research database if you have the means (typically through a university research database). You’ll find some interesting stuff. Bring it to your doctor.

      I started on this way of life about two months ago myself and have lost 30 pounds, come off my blood pressure medication, come off my asthma medication, and have stopped eating handfuls of prilosec before every meal. It seems to work very well when you go at it whole hog.

      Good luck to you, and I hope that this helped.

  256. Well, a lot of people believe what they are told about red meat being bad for them. So the ones in this study who ate a lot of red meat probably didn’t care what they ate. So they probably ate lots of donuts, cookies, white bread, and ice cream as well. That, along with the smoking, is what made them high risk not the red meat.

  257. I did not read in this article exactly how many accidential deaths contributed to the overall study conclusions.

  258. For goodness sakes, red meat is a local food in Colorado. And bison is a native local food. Wild seafood is not local in this state; grass fed red meat is more affordable, fresher, sustainable, and I can ride my bike over to the organic farm or farmer’s market to buy it. If I didn’t have red meat, I would be sick, depleted, miserable, fatigued, and bloated on those recommended whole grains and low fat dairy (this is not food!), a tummy ache from too many nuts, and scarfaced (acne) on soy-fed poultry and eggs. Been there, done that! My body knows what it wants, and it craves red meat. And veggies, fruits, seaweeds (ok, this ain’t local), pastured eggs and poultry. These foods energize and satisfy me without unpleasant reactions. I trust my body more than the mainstream media and its “scientific” studies and impossible dietary recommendations. We can be manipulated through media via our collective fear of death and the future. Come back to the body, feel it, know it, take care of it and live in it. A healthy body and mind will help one discern the truth. The truth is that we are all going to die physically one day, and I choose to live well in the present regardless of how or when I may eventually die, which is unknown.

  259. It’s not the meat that kills you. It’s the meat and potaoes, meat and that large portion of pasta or rice. My dad is 92 years old and he eats the same way as he did for as long as he can remember. My parents came form the Azores Islands in the middle of the Atlantic. They had no flour, rice, or potatoes. They did have Taro. My father only ate Red Meat (Goat, Lamb, Cow) with vegtables and occasionally Taro. Even today he does not eat Rice, Potatoe, or anything with flour. When they started shipping these into the island is when people started to get sick.

  260. There’s a lot to like here, but it’s simply not true that “Only an actual experiment, with controls and manipulated variables, could start confirming causation.”

    Imagine a world or a society without controlled experiments. People would have *no* knowledge of causation? They wouldn’t even get “start[ed] confirming”?

  261. Having read this I thought it was very informative.

    I appreciate you taking the time and energy to put this
    content together. I once again find myself spending
    a significant amount of time both reading and commenting.
    But so what, it was still worth it!

  262. No, you are wrong. I’ve been involved with bodybuilding and fitness for nearly two decades. Diet, nutrition, and supplementation are naturally a big part of my lifestyle……always researching and adapting as I became more educated. I too thought vegans were animal right activist and hippies. This is true, but also they come in all shapes and sizes and have other reasons for doing it. What I’ve learned from scientific data suggests that limiting your animal based proteins significantly reduces your risk for several diseases. I decided to give veganism a shot and found that I feel much better and have more energy and stamina than before. I run circles around the people I work out with… Am I vegan, no. I like to eat meat but I limit it to only two meals a week. Do some unbiased research and listen to the individuals who are appropriately licensed to practice and give medical and nutritional advice. Additionally, if you educate yourselves in paleontology and archeology you’ll see that our ancestors ate primarily fruit, veggies, “and grain”. Animal protein was consumed only on rare occasions when the opportunity presented itself…..

  263. I found this observational study published in January 2013’s issue of “Natural Awakenings” in Madison, WI. I immediately emailed the publisher with a write up to why this shouldn’t be posted in the magazine and the many fallacies in the article. Before sending it I googled to see if anyone else has seen it published anywhere else and found your article. I gave her the link to this page along with my thoughts. Thanks for writing this up!

  264. Exactly, “Red meat is evil” simply doesn’t make sense.

    The two things we have been eating the longest are 1) vegetables, 2) meat. Nature doesn’t make mistakes; how have humans been eating meat for 2.5M years yet we aren’t adapted to it??

    When primitive hunter/gather cultures are studied we see they get 30-80% of their calories from fat, and the primary source is animal fat (lots of saturated fat). And these cultures don’t have chronic disease, obesity or heart problems.


    Thus “Red meat is bad” isn’t reality.

  265. I am personally very interested in diet and health, and have been trying to look into the different viewpoints, science and studies that have been done in an attempt to find what is truly healthy for humans. However, so far I am finding that the whole thing is incredibly confusing, and everyone seems to be pushing an agenda of some kind, and this author is no different.

    I find it ironic that at the same time that she states:
    “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”.

    It is these types of statements, plump full of fluffy words that do not state any sort of fact or important ideas, research, or useful information, that make me think the writer is certainly very biased. These statements do nothing more than attempt to satirize the opposite side.

    I greatly appreciate people who look into studies like this and examine them for what they are, because like I said I am trying to figure out what I should be eating. But this article is not at all concise or unbiased in my opinion. The entire beginning of the article lays out, in a very biased fashion, nothing but disrespectful insulting language for the people who conducted the studies. By the time we actually get into the real critique of the study I already know exactly who’s side this writer is on. As someone who honestly is confused about the whole situation, she makes it harder for me to want to listen to her side, because it seems to be just as biased and her language just as sensationalist as the ‘researchers waiving statistical wands’ she’s trying to disclaim.

  266. I’m so glad I re-read the paragraph on mis-representing food consumption. It makes so much more sense now. Thanks!

  267. Since there have not been any actual double blind controlled experiments on tobacco, then I guess that we can not possibly conclude that tobacco causes lung cancer, cardio vascular disease, and other unpleasantness.

    It is all, after all, observational. As far as I know there have never been
    …Only an actual experiment, with controls and manipulated variables, could start confirming causation.

  268. Well this makes me feel a little better about my obsession with a thick slab of red meat. One very interesting revelation for me was that cooking it too long could actually contribute to cancer! I would love to hear where that study leads. Awesome stuff, it’s nice to see someone use a sensible approach on the great misinformation highway.

  269. of course eating red meats will kill you. The excess dietary cholesterol leads to all the major health problems plaguing the world right now least of which is obesity on one hand and abject starvation on the other.

  270. I work in a health clinic, have seen thousands of clients and can confirm the accuracy of this report.

    There is nothing, and I mean NOTHING, that people like about more than food.

    Ask a fat, sick and lazy person if they eat well and exercise and they’ll say “Yes”.

    Almost everyone lies about their diet and pretends they eat less junk than they do.

    Asking people what they eat afterwards is about as accurate as throwing 52 cards in the air and then counting them as you pick them up.

  271. Red meat, processed meat and the risk of venous thromboembolism: Friend or foe?

    Thromb Res. 2015 Apr 29. pii: S0049-3848(15)00199-1. Lippi G1, Cervellin G2, Mattiuzzi C3. … https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25962721/?

    Looks like red meat is back on the medical table. Stroke is not really caused by meat.

  272. This is phenomenal. Thank you Denise, I’m so sick of everyone telling me how deadly red meat is these past few days!
    i really enjoyed your article and now looking forward to read more of your’s write up.
    thank you for sharing with us.

  273. Thank you very much for sharing such informative article with us, its really give me so much knowledge about red meat and health.
    Article’s information and data are really very beneficial.I appreciate your effort.
    Hope you will share your depth experience and knowledge with us in form of such beautiful blogs in future.
    Thanks once again….

  274. Not sure why the skepticism on heterocyclic amines; even the author herself recommended sticking to gentler cooking methods, and the link to the cancer.gov site isn’t denouncing eating red meat, just cooking it differently. It even says there’s more research to be done.

  275. Why can’t you all just admit it: you could give zero shits about how healthy red meat is. YOU DO IT FOR THE TASTE. God damn, you’re all adults, right? Just admit it already. I’ll have WAY more respect for you, honestly.

  276. Thanks for the article, I am aware of the risks of eating a lot of red meat on our diet. But I am not planning to give up on my steaks from time to time! Thanks for sharing, Natalia

  277. It’s shocking that you appear to have accepted the findings of the Women’s Health Initiative. I came to your article from Peter Attia’s excellent website and podcast. In Attia’s podcast with Dr. Avrum Bluming, they jointly discuss the long list of blatant scientific no-no’s commited in that study. It’s an extreme case of bad science. It’s being used as a teaching example of how not to do science: >70% of participants overweight or obese, > 40% participants smokers; and most damning, the study reached no statistical conclusion. The WHI sent out media releases prior to publishing their study for peer review. It doesn’t get much worse than that.