Meat and Eggs

Menu Manifestos Making Massive Meat Mayhem

Meat mayhem marches on in the arcane world of academic nutrition warfare. Humans have a tough time these days with diversity of thinking. Especially if the subject is nutrition. Or food policy. Thus, Rita Rubin served up a compelling account of the ongoing battles about meat in JAMA this week.

Avoiding the Meat of the Issue

This should be all about dietary recommendations based on nutrition science. That’s how the current skirmish started, with a series of five papers in the Annals of Internal Medicine. But nobody seems interested in the science. Instead, people on each side of the issue are digging into ad hominem attacks about unethical behavior and conflicts of interest. Apparently, that’s more entertaining than science itself.

Campaigning for a Cause

It started with a group attacking the publications before they ever went to publication and demanding a retraction. We’re not sure how you retract a publication that’s not yet out. Nonetheless, that’s what happened. Rita Rubin describes it thusly:

It’s almost unheard of for medical journals to get blowback for studies before the data are published. But that’s what happened to the Annals of Internal Medicine last fall as editors were about to post several studies showing that the evidence linking red meat consumption with cardiovascular disease and cancer is too weak to recommend that adults eat less of it.

Annals editor Christine Lane saw roughly 2,000 emails flood into her inbox in half an hour. They were caustic. She had to shut down that inbox. David Katz circulated the press release about this study, even though it was under embargo. He told people that the work “looks like it’s going to be a serious problem for us.” Katz and his colleagues petitioned the journal to “preemptively retract publication of these papers” and give them further review. The journal did not.

Finger Pointing

Then, after those papers came out, the New York Times and the Washington Post started writing stories to depict the papers as being the work of Big Meat. Forget the facts, they come from people we can’t trust.

On the other hand, neurologist Steven Novella criticized the campaign against the publications. He told JAMA:

It’s a total hit job. They have a certain number of go-to strategies . . . in order to dismiss any scientific findings they don’t like.

Honestly, all of this is embarrassing. Wrestling in the mud is no way to advance the science of nutrition.

Click here for more of this from JAMA.

Meat and Eggs, painting by Felix Vallotton / WikiArt

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January 18, 2020

6 Responses to “Menu Manifestos Making Massive Meat Mayhem”

  1. January 18, 2020 at 5:03 pm, Le Moore said:

    Oh my, I just felt as if I was reading a soap opera. I’m trying to figure out who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. As a consumer (and as a person affected by the disease of obesity), I realized that I recognized many of these distinguished names and organizations. I also realized that the common thread here is about providing awareness to the public so they can make informed educated choices that directly impact their health.

    Yes, we need to be aware of these types of issues; but, are we going backwards to the days of having to listen to “experts” passionately arguing for or against handwashing to prevent disease?

    How is this finger-pointing and defensiveness helping? Is this another type of diversion that only further muddies the already murky waters of what’s healthy (or deadly – especially if there are scare tactics involved)? What happened to ethics and the bonding together of so-called “experts” to work together to find real answers for real people? This is not a game. We all know there is no one-size fits all approach.

    So many questions and so many answers. For all our sakes please stop putting up all these trees in front of us (the public) so we can’t see the forest! I want my 6 month old great granddaughter and her children to live long healthy happy safe lives. Isn’t that the real goal here?

    • January 18, 2020 at 5:13 pm, Ted said:

      Good observations, Le.

  2. January 18, 2020 at 5:10 pm, Michael Jones said:

    I’d like to say I’m surprised but I’ve been doing this long enough that I can’t. I will however say, Ted, that I am loving your alliterative title to this piece.

    • January 18, 2020 at 5:17 pm, Ted said:

      Thank you, Michael.

  3. January 19, 2020 at 8:31 am, Mary-Jo said:

    Oh, Le Moore, I feel for you! Those of us who have been studying and working with diets, nutrition, and people all of our lives and who, thus far, see there is clear pluralism of dietary and nutritional ‘truth’ — as you so simply, but profoundly stated – no one-size fits all— see what’s happening now vs. many years ago as a sort of ‘Goldilocks’ dynamic. That is, 40 years ago when I was begging doctors to give more attention to dietary and nutritional needs of my patients, I couldn’t get arrested. They thought it either wasn’t important, wouldn’t be possible for people to change, or wouldn’t even affect someone’s health or disease state. Now, many doctors, based on their own experiences and ‘studies’ with cherry-picked data on select populations, and with biased conclusions, write books, become experts, and dole out ‘this is the answer’ advice. We went from no attention to this reactive all-out-in-force attention — high fat, low-fat, hi carb, low-carb, fasting, grazing, juicing, raw foods, meat, no meat, dairy, no dairy, etc, etc. Whiplashing. Not to mention, indeed, all the overarching special interests involved that harkens to their bottom-lines. I’m hopeful that very soon, a graceful, ‘just right’ balance will occur and all peoples, with their unique circumstances (genetically, environmentally, disease, budgets, etc) that effects the foods, diet, and nutritional needs they have, will be represented in the medical as well as popular literature and guidelines will reflect, accordingly.

  4. January 21, 2020 at 9:19 pm, David Brown said:

    What bothers me most about all the wrangling is the lack of interest in discussing the most pronounced alterations in the human dietary of the latter half of the 20th Century. These would be the increase in the omega-6 content of the food supply. To be sure, high sugar intake is guilty of diluting the vitamin/mineral content of the food supply. However, other effects of added sugars need to be evaluated in relation to its accomplices, linoleic acid and arachidonic acid. Sugar intake alone cannot account for DNA damage, oxidized cholesterol, shortened telomeres, insulin resistance, inflammation, and a host of other metabolic disturbances including lowered sperm counts, erectile dysfunction, and varicose veins. So, here’s what I suggest. Google – arachidonic acid or linoleic acid in conjunction with any of the above named symptoms or medical conditions. For example, “varicose veins linoleic acid” will connect you with this blog post.