So Red Meat Is Good for Us Again or What?

There is not enough evidence to convince people to avoid red meat, according to five new meta-analyzes . Does this mean that we were lied to and the steaks were good all along? Or is it just another headline slap that is better off ignored?

The answer you get depends on the question you ask

There have been many studies of red meat and its health effects over the decades. Some have found what looks like a connection: For example, people who remember eating more red meat during their lifetime are (in some studies) more likely to develop certain types of cancer or heart disease.

But the conclusion that you can not eat red meat is still far away . In fact, research cannot ask questions such as “is red meat good?” – instead, scientists collect very specific facts and analyze them in a way that they hope will give us more information.

Real life is messy. Here are some examples of how confusing this question can get: If the red meat eaters in your study eat a lot of fast food hamburgers, is the problem with the meat or other fast food they eat? Are the people who eat red meat in your study richer or poorer than the rest of the population? Older or Younger? What about people who eat less red meat – what do they eat instead?

These are complex questions, and it is simply not possible to design a study that provides a definitive answer to this question. But one thing we can do is take a close look at the large group of studies and see if any patterns stand out.

Interpretation question

The new analysis hasn’t shown red meat is good for us, it just isn’t strong enough evidence to worry about people stopping eating it. Here is their general conclusion :

Recommendations: The group suggests that adults continue to consume unprocessed red meat at this time (weak recommendation, low-certainty evidence). Likewise, the group encourages adults to continue their current consumption of processed meat (weak recommendation, low certainty evidence).

It says eat what you want, but even this is a “weak recommendation” based on “low-certainty evidence.” You don’t need to eat more red meat or less, and they don’t even think very hard about whether you continue to eat the amount of red meat you ate. This is encouraging.

But here’s the thing: This recommendation is based on the same science as all the recommendations you read about not eating red meat. Epidemiologist Guide MK writes :

So the main difference lies in interpretation, not in the evidence itself. New research argues that because the evidence we have is relatively small, we cannot tell people what to do based on research findings. … The argument really boils down to how confident we can be when we say red meat is bad for your health.

Meanwhile, researchers and organizations that advocate avoiding red meat may still rely on the same evidence they had in the first place. For example, nutritional researcher Christopher Gardner tweeted some criticisms of the new analysis . He noted that, for example, there is a lack of some research on reducing meat consumption. Just as research can have problems that make it complex or confusing, so can meta-analyzes.

So what do I have?

One interesting point about the new analysis is that it included research examining whether people actually change their diet when they are told. If no one listens to the recommendations, then perhaps it is not worth making recommendations out loud.

However, this is a different divergence of opinion. If there is a small risk of eating red meat, wouldn’t we want to know? Maybe some of us will want to switch to a different food just in case. And you can still do it.

While scientists debate the best conclusions to be drawn from all red meat research, many experts urge people not to worry so much about this study, and instead focus on what we know are healthy eating patterns and healthy behavior in general. … Gardner noted that more vegetables, beans, fruits, and fiber are healthier foods, regardless of whether you need to eliminate meat from your diet to match them. Obesity specialist Yoni Friedhoff shared his short essential healthy lifestyle list , which includes “Get vaccinated” and “cook with whole ingredients.”

So if you need to follow a rule, try doing what you already know is good for your health: eat more vegetables to start with and add less sugar. The new analysis also failed to address the environmental or ethical reasons for avoiding meat, which are also of major concern.


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