Looks like meat's back on the menu, boys

Is red meat bad for you? Of course! At least in the opinion of various medical professionals who are endlessly interviewed for climate crisis articles. Bad for you. Bad for the environment. Just all around bad.

But perhaps not. A recent report from an international research team makes the argument that the data simply doesn’t exist to definitively say one way or the other. And they further point out that a lack of exhaustive clinical studies for many related questions plague much of the discussion when it comes to dietary health issues. (10tv.com)

So is red meat good or bad for you? If the answer were only that simple.

A team of international researchers recently rattled the nutrition world by saying there isn’t enough evidence to tell people to cut back on red or processed meat, seemingly contradicting advice from prominent health experts and groups including the American Cancer Society and American Heart Association.

But the researchers didn’t say people should eat more meat, or that it’s healthy. No new studies were conducted, and they reported no new understanding of meat’s effects on the body. Instead, the papers offer a new approach to giving advice about food and health — and a rebuke to how it’s often done.

This vacillation on dietary guidance isn’t a new phenomenon. If you’ve been following the news for long enough, you probably remember all of the different warnings and retractions we’ve heard about eggs. That one happened so often that the comedian Lewis Black used to work a riff into his standup act about it. Eggs are good. Eggs are bad. The whites are good but the yolks are bad. Make up your mind! I need to make breakfast!

The studies that are regularly cited about red meat (which the researchers dug into) certainly don’t seem to justify the more dramatic conclusions and warnings. For example, cutting back on red meat in a sample of 1,000 people led to seven fewer cancer deaths. That’s less than one percent. In terms of susceptibility to strokes, there was no difference recorded. Further, even in samples where there was at least some difference, researchers couldn’t rule out the possibility that the difference was caused by unrelated factors.

In other words, there was little evidence to suggest that eating less meat actually changed your chances of various health outcomes in a statistically significant fashion.

Does this really come as a surprise? From a strictly non-scientific perspective, humans evolved over time to eat what was available and adapt to those foods just like any other animal. We’ve been hunting animals for food as far back as the anthropological records go. If meat was so toxic to us, how did we survive this long?

In reality, much like everything else in life, moderation is probably the key. If you eat nothing but bloody red meat three times a day you’ll probably develop problems. The same goes for sugar and all the rest of the selections we eat or drink. And yes, raising beef is probably not great for the planet. But neither is much else that we do. When you’re trying to feed and support a population of nearly eight billion, anything you do on that scale is going to cause issues. But we somehow deal with it and soldier on.

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David Strom 6:01 PM on March 29, 2023