October 4 2019

Red Meat is STILL not good for you.

A baffling, disturbing, as well as interestingly timed article was recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, which despite the flagrant flaws of the article, is important to look at, given its coverage in large news sites such as the New York Times and the BBC’s online news pages. It is an article that has left a lot of people feeling confused.

The article is about red and processed meats and the recent guidelines by a private organization for people to CONTINUE their current consumption of both these type of meats. Here are my take home points of the article and the organization’s guidelines:

 
  • Several large studies in the past (please see some references below) have shown a clear link between increased consumption of red meat and/or processed meats, with increased risks of premature death, several cancers, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, among other diseases.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified processed meats as a human carcinogen and a major contributor to colorectal cancer. 
  • This recent article published by the Annals of Internal Medicine being reviewed here, was put forth by a private organization called NutriRECS, not a well-recognized authoritative medical or health group. 
  • NutriRECS in this article reviewed 4 meta-analyses (studies of past studies) that looked at the health risk of red and processed meats. These 4 meta-analyses did NOT include some of the most well-respected or largest past studies on risks of these meats. 
  • Partly due to the selection of the past studies they looked at, NutriRECS decided that the benefits from reducing red and processed meat consumption were only modest, though there WERE clear benefits. And again, other large well known studies showing even larger benefits were NOT included in their analyses. 
  • They also looked at a population survey study, which polled people on their thoughts about red and processed meat. Not surprisingly, many people stated they liked these foods and would prefer to eat them. 
  • Based on the survey poll (people expressing their desire for red and processed meats) and the results of the studies they looked at on risks of red and processed meats (which AGAIN showed that decreasing eating these foods WAS beneficial, but in their view, apparently not beneficial enough), the NutriRECS panel came up with nutritional guidelines that “adults continue (their) current unprocessed red meat consumption.… Similarly, the panel suggests adults continue current processed meat consumption” 

Bottom Line: These guidelines offered by this private organization are not aligned with the plethora of nutritional research that consistently shows a strong link between eating red or processed meats  and the increased risk for many diseases.  Furthermore, the guidelines appear heavily influenced by the survey that showed many would like to eat red meat and processed meats. Many people would also like to smoke or engage in risky sexual behavior — should that mean that it should be then recommended? The guidelines of this article are at best irresponsible and at worst, dangerous to those who will look at some of the news headlines covering this story and think that red and processed meat is back on the menu. For your health, it shouldn’t be.

Some personal thoughts on the study:

This might be hard to hear, but many people would like to feel better about their bad habits. 

Don’t be reassured into illness. The significant body of evidence linking red and processed meats to several diseases is undeniable. 

I  can share with you that in my 16 years now as a physician, I have had too-many-to-count patients who have reversed diabetes, hypertension, being overweight, having elevated cholesterol and other risks for cardiovscualar disease, by cutting down and/or eliminating red and processed meat.

And health is just one detrimental aspect of the amount of red and processed meat being currently consumed in the world. There is also significant evidence around the production of these meats having caused and continuing to cause disturbing environmental disasters (including deforestation, threats to and near extinction of several species, as well as climate change). 

Red and processed meats resulting in disease might feel like an inconvenient truth for many. 

However, rather than looking to organizations such as NutriRECS and others to provide an “alternative” spin on the truth, one that is again, absolutely flawed and dangerous to our health, we can find ways of eating in ways that honor our personal well being, the well-being of other sentient beings, and the health of our planet. 

And if you’re worried you’re not getting enough protein or not building enough muscle by reducing or eliminating meat, please check out the documentaries Forks Over Knives and The Game Changers. 

REFERENCES:

1. Rada‐Fernandez de Jauregui D, Evans CEL, Jones P, Greenwood DC, Hancock N, Cade JE. Common dietary patterns and risk of cancers of the colon and rectum: Analysis from the United Kingdom Women's Cohort Study (UKWCS). Intl J Cancer. Published online April 1, 2018

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29516512

2. Sinha R, Park Y, Graubard BI, et al. Meat and meat-related compounds and risk of prostate cancer in a large prospective cohort study in the United States. Am J Epidemiol. 2009

 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19808637

3. Pan A, Sun Q, Bernstein AM, et al. Red meat consumption and mortality: results from 2 prospective cohort studies. Arch Intern Med. Published online March 12, 2012.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22412075

4. Bradbury K, et al. Diet and colorectal cancer in UK Biobank: a prospective study. International Journal of Epidemiology April 17, 2019. https://academic.oup.com/ije/article/doi/10.1093/ije/dyz064/5470096/#133824902

 

* also please check out PCRM.org for more great information and references. 

DANCE LINK:

Letting go of past practices, including eating practices means facing often our emotions and past traumas.  This is a piece I did around healing from trauma. Please enjoy. 

Healing dance piece title: It Happened. 

Choreography: Tumi Johnson

Dancer: Tumi Johnson

Sound: Poem (“It Happened”) by Tumi Johnson)

Videography: Žare Manojlovič

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