Clearing up the meat scare madness
Thanks to Robb Wolf for the links to this post that clears up the bad science behind the latest “Nutritional McCarthyism” (Robb Wolf again).
Red Meat Consumption and Mortality
Last week, I coincidentally posted on the health benefits of grass-fed beef, with my conclusion basically stating that grassfed, pastured beef and grain-fed beef are so vastly different in their nutritional values, that they cannot realistically be considered the same food source. Yet after reading the recent article “Red Meat Consumption and Mortality” which is all over the news, and seeing my inbox full of about 100 emails, I quickly thought to myself: “Here we go again”. More food-frequency questionnaires, biases, lumping of foods together, and then placing the cross hairs on red meat.
The gist of this study is that the more meat you eat, the larger your mortality risk. In fact, they state that 9.3% of deaths in men and 7.6% in women could be prevented by consuming a half less per serving of red meat per day. The strength of this study is a large population of participants, and I admire the authors’ honesty in admitting their results may be a little shaky (in the manuscript though, not the abstract).However there are some definite strikes against the study, and therefore basing important dietary decisions based on this data is unwise (to me). Unfortunately every media outlet has blindly accepted their results and conclusions, spreading the claim red meat is harmful.
In this study, the authors assessed dietary intake of meat in participants of the Health Professionals Follow-up Study through food frequency questionnaires (FFQ) with:
“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.” The standard serving size was 85 g (3 oz) for unprocessed red meat. 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).”
STRIKE #1: Lumping many food-types together, even though in practice they are very different.This may be obvious to many of you, but clearly the nutritional benefit (or detrimental effect) of a hot-dog full of processed meat and nitrates is NOT THE SAME as grass-fed beef. Similarly, processed bacon made from chronically-stressed pigs (see my previous posts on the living conditions of animals in industrial farms) is NOT THE SAME as ethically and responsibly raised pork. All meat is not created equal, so to study industrially produced meat products and apply that data to free-range, grass-fed meat is scientifically false.