It feels like a new study makes headlines every few months stating how the consumption of meat is killing us all. These “findings” are usually based on bad science, misinterpretation and unfair extrapolation of data or irresponsible reporting. It truly is no wonder that the vast majority of people are completely confused about the constituents of a healthy diet. The most recent example of the meat kills headlines are based on a European population observational study that was heavily reported on by various media outlets about a month ago – though I’m just now getting around to reading it.
In this study the authors report an increase in mortality by about 3% due to the consumption of large levels of processed meats. While there was still a healthy portion of sketchiness in the interpretation of data and ensuing journalism, I have to admit there were numerous encouraging factors present in this latest round of the attack on meat.
The first of which is that this study separated red meat from processed meat – an uncommon distinction. It’s important to consider whether the animal protein source is fresh steak or an oscar meyer weiner. There are typically all sorts of crap additives included with processed meat which contribute to the overall unhealthiness of certain meat (and other) products.
Secondly, I’ve been very impressed by reader comments on the various news sites online articles. The vast majority are examining the results with a critical eye instead of slinging whole grains.
With that said, we’re not totally out of the woods. Media outlets still took their standard jabs, advising against the consumption of red meat due to increased levels of saturated fat, sodium, etc. This, in spite of the fact that the study clearly demonstrated (after adjusting for confounding factors) no correlation between red meat consumption and mortality.
Finally, much of the reporting leads with big statements like “However, those eating more than 160g of processed meat a day… were 44% more likely to die over a typical follow-up time of 12.7 years than those eating about 20g.” Only to follow this statement up after a half page advertisement with a statement backing this number down from 44% to 3% after adjusting for confounders like smoking, exercise and other lifestyle factors. I suppose this is how you sell papers though… sigh.