It’s ok, eating red meat is good for you

The wowsers out there won’t like this new study that shows that contrary to their demands, eating red meat is actually good for you.

If I wanted to cherry-pick studies myself, I might point you to this 2013 study that used the same Nhanes data to conclude that meat consumption is not associated with mortality at all.

Let?s avoid cherry-picking, though. A 2013 meta-analysis of meat-diet studies, including those above, found that people in the highest consumption group of all red meat had a 29 percent relative increase in all-cause mortality compared with those in the lowest consumption group. But most of this was driven by processed red meats, like bacon, sausage or salami.

Epidemiologic evidence can take us only so far. As I?ve written before, those types of studies can be flawed. Nothing illustrates this better than aclassic 2012 systematic review that pretty much showed that everything we eat is associated with both higher and lower rates of cancer.

We really do need randomized controlled trials to answer these questions. They do exist, but with respect to effects on lipid levels such as cholesteroland triglycerides. A meta-analysis examining eight trials found that beef versus poultry and fish consumption didn?t change cholesterol or triglyceride levels significantly. ??

All of this misses the bigger point, though. It?s important to understand what ?too much? really is. People in the highest consumption group of red meat had one to two servings a day. The people in the lowest group had about two servings per week. If you?re eating multiple servings of red meat a day, then, yes, you might want to cut back. I would wager that most people reading this aren?t eating that much. If you eat a couple of servings a week, then you?re most likely doing fine.

All the warnings appear to have made a difference in our eating habits. Americans are eating less red meat today than any time since the 1970s. Doctors? recommendations haven?t been ignored. We?re also doing a bit better in our consumption of vegetables. Our consumption ofcarbohydrates, like grains and sugar, however, has been on the rise. This is, in part, a result of our obsession with avoiding fats and red meat.

We?re eating too many calories, but not necessarily in the same way. Reducing what we?re eating too much of in a balanced manner would seem like the most sensible approach.

Last fall, a meta-analysis of brand-name diet programs was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study compared the results from both the individual diets themselves and three classes, which included low-carbohydrate (like Atkins), moderate macronutrient (Weight Watchers) and low-fat (Ornish). All of the diets led to reduced caloric intake, and all of them led to weight loss at six months and, to a lesser extent, at 12 months. There was no clear winner, nor any clear loser.

Where does that leave us? It?s hard to find a take-home message better than this: The best diet is the one that you?re likely to keep. What isn?t helpful is picking a nutritional culprit of bad health and proclaiming that everyone else is eating wrong. There?s remarkably little evidence that that?s true anytime anyone does it.

I’ll continue getting my protein from meat, and prefereably meat I killed myself.

– NY Times