Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Red Meat Is Not the Enemy

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All the misinformation that Ancel Keys forced onto the medical profession and the public—he was a consummate bully—is gradually being corrected. Eggs are not a problem. Bacon is not a problem. And now: beef is not a problem. (All that is from the dietary point of view: other considerations may apply.)

Aaron Carroll reports in the NY Times:

There are people in this country eating too much red meat. They should cut back. There are people eating too many carbs. They should cut back on those. There are also people eating too much fat, and the same advice applies to them, too.

What’s getting harder to justify, though, is a focus on any one nutrient as a culprit for everyone.

I’ve written Upshot articles on how the strong warnings against salt andcholesterol are not well supported by evidence. But it’s possible that no food has been attacked as widely or as loudly in the past few decades as red meat.

As with other bad guys in the food wars, the warnings against red meat are louder and more forceful than they need to be.

Americans are more overweight and obese than they pretty much have ever been. There’s also no question that we are eating more meat than in previous eras. But we’ve actually been reducing our red meat consumptionfor the last decade or so. This hasn’t resulted in a huge decrease in obesityrates or deaths from cardiovascular disease.

The same reports also show that we eat significantly more fruits and vegetables today than we did decades ago. We also eat more grains andsweeteners.

This is the real problem: We eat more calories than we need. But in much of our discussion about diet, we seek a singular nutritional guilty party. We also tend to cast everyone in the same light as “eating too much.”

I have seen many people point to a study from last year that found that increased protein intake was associated with large increases in mortality rates from all diseases, with high increases in the chance of death fromcancer or diabetes. A close examination of the manuscript, though, tells a different story.

This was a cohort study of people followed through the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, or Nhanes. It found that there were no associations between protein consumption and death from all causes or cardiovascular disease or cancer individually when all participants over age 50 were considered. It did detect a statistically significant association between the consumption of protein and diabetes mortality, but the researchers cautioned that the number of people in the analysis was so small that any results should be taken with caution.

The scary findings from two paragraphs up are from a subanalysis that looked at people only 50 to 65. But if you look at people over 65, the opposite was true. High protein was associated with lower levels of all-cause and cancer-specific mortality. If you truly believe that this study proves what people say, then we should advise people over the age of 65 to eat more meat. No one advises that.

Further, this study defined people in the “high protein” group as those eating 20 percent or more of their calories from protein. When the Department of Agriculture recommends that Americans get 10 to 35 percent of their calories from protein, 20 percent should not be considered high.

If I wanted to cherry-pick studies myself, I might point you to this 2013 study that used the same Nhanes data to conclude that meat consumption is not associated with mortality at all.

Let’s avoid cherry-picking, though. A 2013 meta-analysis of meat-diet studies, including those above, found . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 March 2015 at 9:08 am

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