If you’ve been reading the news this past week, you most likely know about the latest red meat study. The headlines read, “Red Meat Will Kill You!” or words to that effect.
But is it true? To find out, it is important to look past the headlines and see what the study really says.
An example of the popular media reporting of this study comes from this ABC News article, “Red Meat Tied To Increased Mortality Risk.” On the surface of it, red meat comes out badly in this article.
Study co-author, Dr. Frank Hu, comes right out and says, “[The study] provides clear evidence that regular consumption of red meat, especially processed meat, contributes substantially to premature death.”
And since Dr. Hu works at Harvard and the study was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, that pretty much seals the deal, wouldn’t you say?
Not so fast. Let’s look closer at this study.
The first clue that all may not be what it seems show up right in the ABC article. It’s buried in the ninth paragraph. It says, “The study could not conclude that red meat consumption caused the increased risk of death, rather that there was an association between the two.”
In other words, it is an association, not proof of cause. The other way to say this is, “Correlation is not causation.” We’ll come back to this one in a moment.
The second clue is that this isn’t an experimental study. Instead it is an observational study. In other words, they asked people to tell them what they eat. The thing to know about this type of study is that people don’t always tell the truth. They aren’t necessarily lying, but they may not recall the facts correctly. The results are subject to error. Sometimes this error is extreme.
By contrast, an experimental study tests variables to determine what may be causing one outcome or another. That’s a huge difference. This study did no such thing.
Now back to the issue of association. The study showed a definite correlation between red meat consumption and dying earlier. But what wasn’t so widely reported was that there was also a much higher correlation between eating meat and several other activities. These included:
- Lack of exercise
- Not taking multivitamins
So if Dr. Hu’s statement that meat contributes to premature death is true, then it is equally plausible to conclude that eating meat also increases the chances of someone smoking, not exercising and not taking vitamins. Of course no right-thinking person would think such a thing.
If you want to read more on this, there is a brilliant, in-depth review of this study. It is done by researcher and author, Denise Minger. She’s best known for her debunking of the China Study. Her blog is Raw Food SOS. Her review of this latest meat study is on Mark Sisson’s site, Mark’s Daily Apple. The article is called, “Will Eating Red Meat Kill You?”
All the best to you for your health and happiness,