Controversial New Guidelines Say There’s No Need to Cut Back on Red Meat After All

Celebrate with a steak today.

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If you’re about to tuck into some tofu with a heavy sigh, hang on–it turns out steak may not kill you outright after all.

Seriously, red meat has gained a bad rep over the last several years, in great part due to dire warnings linking it to a host of health problems, including various cancers. But a study done by Canada’s Dalhousie and McMaster universities and released Sept. 30, 2019 cast doubt on those warnings, to the joy of carnivores everywhere.

“Most people can continue to eat red and processed meat as they do now,” the study authors concluded, as reducing red meat consumption “has little impact on health.”

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The sampling of info behind the researchers’ conclusions was substantial:

The researchers performed four systematic reviews focused on randomized controlled trials and observational studies looking at the impact of red meat and processed meat consumption on cardiometabolic and cancer outcomes.

In one review of 12 trials with 54,000 people, the researchers did not find statistically significant or an important association between meat consumption and the risk of heart disease, diabetes or cancer.

The researchers also examined the reasons why some people chose to consume red meat and “found people eat meat because they see it as healthy, they like the taste and they are reluctant to change their diet.”

The Washington Post, however, found that there are definitely plenty of scientists and physicians who are not prepared to buy into this study at all. 

Walter Willett is a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and he told the Post that this study “ignored” other findings:

“If you really want to review the evidence, you have to look at all bodies of relevant data. Why did they ignore that vast body of data of carefully controlled, randomized studies?” asks Willett, pointing to studies that show that, compared with plant sources of protein, red meat increases blood levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, which consistently predict a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. He cited studies such as the Lyon Diet Heart Study, one that was not considered in the new study.

Willett noted that the Dalhousie-McMaster study didn’t address what people ate in lieu of consuming steak or pork. 

“If you replace a portion of red meat with all the other unhealthy foods in our diet,” Willett reportedly said, “you are comparing red meat consumption to the consumption of that, which may show negligible results.”

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Defending the findings from critics, one of the authors said “Regarding the reaction among some in the nutrition research community … we are sympathetic to the discomfort of acknowledging the low-quality evidence in one’s field.” 

“It seems to us, however,” he continued, “that pretending that the rules of evidence differ across fields because the feasibility of definitive studies is not possible in one’s particular field is a poor solution to the problem.”

The overall problem with this otherwise awesome study is that it could lead many in the public seeking a definitive answer regarding healthy meat consumption to conclude no one knows anything for sure. 

In the meantime, go ahead and order that burger, if meat is your thing. It obviously can’t hurt that much, after all.