Controversial Research Says Don’t Limit Red Meat

For as long as there has been nutrition advice, scientists and researchers have gone back and forth on what is right for us and what’s unhealthy. Eggs are a food that changes from the “good” to “bad” list frequently. But, some foods stay on the “bad” list for extended periods. Red meat is widely considered to be taboo. But, new research is questioning that long-held belief.

Earlier this year, researchers started saying a diet including small amounts of lean red meat might be better for heart health than DASH. Newly published research is now claiming beef is fine, without limitations. It’s causing quite a commotion within nutritional circles because it claims people don’t need to limit processed or red meat at all to remain healthy. The work was published in the highly respected Annals of Internal Medicine.

The work found that the proof that meat has an impact on health is weak. But, the researchers were quick to say their findings weren’t definitive; meat might play a minimal roll in health. “Despite our findings [that] unprocessed red meat and processed meat are unlikely to be causal factors for adverse health outcomes, this does not preclude the possibility that meat has a very small causal effect.

According to the first author, Bradley Johnston, from Dalhousie Univ., “For the majority of people, but not everyone, continuing their red and processed meat consumption is the right approach.” Most North Americans eat three to four servings of meat a week. The panel that made the recommendation was made up of 14 people; three went against the new advice for people to continue eating as much meat as they already do.

Other health professionals disagree, some going as far as calling the recommendation dangerous. The American Institute for Cancer Research put out a statement saying, “Regularly eating processed meat, and higher consumption of red meat, increases your risk of colorectal cancer.

Walter Willett, an advocate of a plant-based diet from the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, said, “This report has layers of flaws and is the most egregious abuse of evidence that I have ever seen.” But, the researchers used methodology most reviewers said was thorough, compiling data from studies around the world and grading the results of that data.

Gunter Kuhnle, at the Univ. of Reading, said the research was thorough, but he wanted people to focus on the “very small causal effect” that the researchers saw. “The data clearly shows that the while the association between meat and cancer does not have to be addressed urgently, it should not be ignored. Small dietary changes can mitigate the effect of red and processed meat on cancer risk, for example, a high-fiber diet.

With this research, it seems like there is still much to learn about meat’s impact on health. We are big believers in two things: enjoy a varied diet with lots of different foods in moderation and talking to your primary health care provider. Everyone’s dietary needs are different. While this research may make us feel better about our consumption of meat, it’s certainly not the last word on the ongoing health debate about the matter.
October 07, 2019
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