Meat Study Had Drawbacks

It’s National Meat Week. Some don’t celebrate it — vegans, vegetarians and some health enthusiasts — we don’t believe in cutting out foods from our diet. We enjoy a varied diet, with fruits, veggies, carbs and protein. So, we’ll enjoy some meat tonight at dinner time.

Recently meat lovers were given reason to cheer when researchers claimed that the amount of red meat and processed meat in the average diet was perfectly healthy. We had our doubts, as the American Institute for Cancer Research and the Harvard Public school of health vehemently disagreed.

Now, it has come to light that the lead researcher, Bradley Johnston, received money from Texas A&M AgriLife Research for research on saturated and polyunsaturated fats. This cast some doubt on the findings. Holly Shive, speaking for Texas A&M AgriLife, said there was nothing to link the meat study and the study on fats. “Dr. Johnston is committed to full transparency. It is incorrect to suggest he had any conflicts of interest.”

Texas A&M AgriLife receives money from the beef industry for research. The president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Dr. Neal Barnard, believes that the researcher should have been studied more before publishing. He also thinks that the failure to disclose the funding exacerbated the problem. The research may be right, but it’s hard to tell.

The big theme here is science is supposed to clarify issues,” Dr. Barnard said. “More and more, there are scientists being paid for hire to muddy the issues.”

Long term studies have shown that small amounts of meat won’t increase the risk of heart disease, cancer or other diseases. While lean meats are often touted as being better, studies have found little difference. The same is true for grass-fed beef. However, processed meats have been linked to health problems.

While many, many people believe that a meatless diet is by default, healthier, that is untrue. We don’t yet know if plant-based meats have negative health impacts: they’re too new to have much research. Even if the Beyond and Impossible burgers are better, that doesn’t mean your diet will improve when you remove meat. Depending on what you replace the meat with, you may be worse off than you were. If you increase your carbs and don’t replace the protein in the meat, you may see worsening health.

Our suggestion, during Meat Week — or any other time of year — is to keep your portion small. Your veggies should take up most you’re your plate. Grilling or roasting your meat is far better than cooking it with fat in a pan or something that chars your meat — increasing your cancer risks. Also, while many of us were raised thinking a meal wasn’t complete without meat, meat shouldn’t be in every meal. Protein can come from many sources, including dairy, eggs and vegetables. So, overall, it seems like the best — current — advice is to enjoy meat sparingly but not worry about cutting it completely. And, as always, we advocate a diet with a lot of variety and color.
January 27, 2020

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