Red meat = DEATH!

I am sure everyone has heard about the latest Harvard study which suggests there is harm associated with the consumption of red and processed meat. Don’t panic. It, like most other epidemiological studies on nutrition and health, is deeply flawed. There are some excellent critiques already in circulation so I am not going to write another.

I highly recommend Gary Taube’s take on it at:

http://garytaubes.com/2012/03/science-pseudoscience-nutritional-epidemiology-and-meat/

Also, somebody new to me, Zoe Harcombe, an enlightened nutritionist in Wales, who has also studied math and economics:

http://www.zoeharcombe.com/blog/

And, if that hasn’t convinced you not to worry, see what J. Stanton has to say at:

http://www.gnolls.org/2893/always-be-skeptical-of-nutrition-headlines-or-what-red-meat-consumption-and-mortality-pan-et-al-really-tells-us/

It’s disappointing but not surprising to see this kind of poor quality research being published. As I have often said, if poor quality results like these went against the conventional wisdom, they would not make it into the high impact peer-reviewed publications. It’s a bit of a rigged game, unfortunately. Luckily for us we have intelligent, incisive folks, like those above, who can pierce the veil of BS and give us comfort that we are, in fact, on the right track with our LCHF dietary choices.

Enjoy your steak and bacon!

3 thoughts on “Red meat = DEATH!

  1. Hi, Dr Wortman, it seems every big name in nutrition and health has something to say about that piece. And they all seem to agree. As do I.

    As I do with every observational study, I say I can safely dismiss it outright without missing anything critical that could affect my opinion on the subject either way. That kind of evidence is truly unreliable. One way to look at it is to look at what defines science. A fundamental characteristic of science is the ability to replicate results. If a method, in this case observational studies, can’t guarantee result replication, then maybe it’s not science. It’s just another way of saying observational studies are unreliable.

    It makes sense. Most observational studies that look at diet and health use food questionnaires and/or per-capita food production. Another fundamental characteristic of science is the necessity of precise measurements. A food questionnaire is anything but. This explains the lack of reliability and the inability to replicate results. In fact, when I look at experimental studies that use food questionnaires, like the A-TO-Z for example, I disregard that part and look only at the intervention, in this case the diet books, and the results, i.e. the measured health risk factors and weight. Those are the only reliable data from which we can draw conclusions.

    It makes sense too. A food questionnaire doesn’t tell us what people eat, but only what people say they eat. It seems rather absurd to conclude that what people say has any effect on their health. In the context of an experimental study, a food questionnaire is not a cause, but an effect. The cause is the intervention, the diet books or whatever instructions are given by the researchers. The food questionnaires is merely a measure of the effect of that intervention. In that light, it seems equally absurd to conclude that an effect, a food questionnaire, can cause another effect, health risk factors, in the context of an observational study.

    One argument in favor of observational studies is that it can expose very large effects like smoking for example. But even then it doesn’t tell how it works. Non-smokers get lung cancer too after all. But the fact that it can expose very large effects merely speaks of the limitations of observational studies. When the effect is too small, it can go either way. And researchers use the trick of ratio-of-a-ratio to artificially amplify the results. 100% greater risk means nothing when the reference is one unit in a thousand. And we’re right back at the unreliable nature of observational studies.

    Red meat = Good! :)

    Dr Jay’s Reply:

    You make some good points. I can’t say I disagree with anything you have said.

  2. “I have found the “devil”. Genuinely. — I know that you don’t believe that. Nobody does. — It’s the “adrenaline like effects” of sugars and hybrid carbohydrates”. This is the devil, for sure and for true. — My discovery, I share with you. Thank you.
    -Tom Bunnell

  3. Tansi, Dr. Jay. upon finding your research and the impact it had at Alert bay it only reinforced and motivated my diet which is a paleolithic diet or I call an ancestral diet. I was 300pdl am 6’2 and arthritic knees from too much construction work, i though so did my doctor. An anishnabe friend of mine showed me Loren Cordains book and after reading it I did my own research and design a traditional eating plan. In six months i lost 70 pounds and my arthritis vanished. It inspired me and my family to change our diet. It was tough on the kids but because I am indigenous i like to think we can adapt quickly to any situation. so i became an excellent cook. I am pursuing a science degree in victoria bc, and plan to go to medical school and work towards a better way for indigneous people. Thank you for website and wisdom.

    Dr Jay’s Reply:

    Good for you for figuring this out on your own. I wish you the best in your aspirations to be a doctor. People with the ability to think outside the box are badly needed.

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