this Is How I Feel Right Now

One More Round: How Much Shall We Fear Meat?

A red meat issue is inflammatory and political. This particular definition doesn’t have a separate entry in Merriam-Webster yet, though they are thinking about it. But on the subject of red meat, medical journals just can’t let it go. So today we have a new paper in JAMA Internal Medicine to revisit the question – how much should we fear meat? One more time, everyone can spin out answers according to their own biases.

Victor Zhong and colleagues have a new analysis of data from nearly 30,000 people that reaches the same conclusion that keeps coming back at us. Red meat has a small statistical association with heart disease and mortality. However, “this study could not establish causality,” say the authors.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy?

This kerfuffle started with a series of papers in October in the Annals of Internal Medicine that found essentially the same thing. But authors of those studies paired them with a dietary guidance paper that essentially said, don’t worry about it. The risk is too small and uncertain. No need for the whole population to change what it’s doing with regard to red and processed meat.

Of course, that didn’t sit well with people who’ve been recommending that folks cut down on red and processed meats. Naturally, the food fight progressed into ad hominem arguments about bias and disclosures. The chancellor of the Texas A&M University System demanded that Harvard investigate the conduct of some of its faculty.

Same Song, Another Verse

In her discussion of the latest round of data, senior author Norrina Allen restates the principal theme of this interminable fugue quite well:

I would say that even though it seems to be a small amount of risk, any excess risk for something as major as heart disease and mortality is worth considering.

Noted. Now can we move on?

Click here for the latest paper and here for more from the New York Times.

This Is How I Feel Right Now, illustration by jnyemb / flickr

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February 4, 2020

One Response to “One More Round: How Much Shall We Fear Meat?”

  1. February 04, 2020 at 1:16 pm, David Brown said:

    Almost everyone expressing concern about meat intake blames the saturated fat content of meat for any health issues that arise. In truth, saturated fats in red meat are mostly stearic acid, a saturated fat that has little impact on cholesterol levels. Much of the remainder is oleic acid which is considered beneficial. What gets ignored is the arachidonic acid content of lean tissue. In humans, research indicates that the daily requirement for arachidonic acid amounts to tens of milligrams. However, average intakes are in the hundreds of milligrams. In supplementation studies, additional thousands of milligrams are added to the diet, often with seeming therapeutic benefit. Unfortunately, anti-meat scientists conclude that excessive arachidonic acid intake is not a problem so they ignore a vast body of research that indicates otherwise. As Philip Calder noted in a 2007 Review entitled Dietary arachidonic acid: harmful, harmless or helpful?, “…it is important to keep in mind that, just because there is little biological impact of an increase in arachidonic acid intake or status, there may still be significant benefit from a decrease in its intake or status.” Indeed, my own health status improved dramatically over time when I restricted my meat intake. For details, Google – David Brown Kassam.