Is red meat unhealthy?

Red meat unhealthy

I’m sure we’ve all heard at one point or another that red meat is bad for our health. It’s one of the dogmas that’s been spouted by government health authorities for decades. Back in 2015, the WHO declared red meat to be a carcinogen. Here in Sweden, the Public Health Authority recommends that people limit intake of red meat to 500 grams per week. Personally, I probably eat at least twice that, so I guess I’m in big trouble.

The problem with these recommendations is that they are based on little to no evidence, mainly very low quality observational studies that show a marginally increased risk of cancer with increased red meat consumption, and debunked hypotheses, such as the cholesterol hypothesis (a.k.a. the diet-heart hypothesis), which states that saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet causes heart disease.

If saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet cause heart disease, then foods that contain a lot of these things, like red meat, should logically cause heart disease. But we now know that the cholesterol hypothesis is nonsense, as I’ve written about previously (although it lives on as a kind of zombie-hypothesis, in accordance with the principle that science advances one funeral at a time).

I think you can already guess what my personal biases are on the red meat issue. I’m inherently skeptical of the idea that red meat is unhealthy, for the simple reason that it has constituted a major part of our diets for at least the last couple of million years. Evolution generally doesn’t produce animals that become sick from the main components of their diets.

But maybe evolution decided to make an exception when it comes to humans. Luckily, three articles were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in November 2019, all by the same group of researchers, that help shed light on whether red meat is bad for our health. The researchers received no specific funding and reported no conflicts of interest. Just to be clear before we begin, in case anyone is uncertain of the definition, red meat is meat that comes from mammals, in other words, cows, pigs, sheep, and so on.

The first of these articles was a systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies looking at the link between red meat consumption and cancer. A cohort study is a type of observational study in which you get two groups of people that are similar except for a single variable that you want to study, in this case red meat consumption, and then follow them over time to see what happens. It’s not as good as a randomized controlled trial, because no matter how hard you try to get rid of confounding variables, you’ll never be able to get rid of them all. But it’s the next best thing, and often it’s the only realistic option, since most people aren’t willing to be randomized to either a high- or low- red meat diet.

There is one very big confounder that affects all observational studies of red meat, that we need to be aware of before we even begin to look at the data, because it is virtually impossible to compensate for. It is the fact that we’ve all been told for decades that red meat is bad for us. This means that people who care about their health will tend to limit their intake of red meat, while people who don’t care so much, won’t. The people who care will also do a lot of other things that the people who don’t care won’t do. They’ll exercise more, eat more vegetables, smoke less, drink less alcohol, meditate more, and probably do a thousand other things differently from the people who don’t care so much. No matter how hard we try, it is impossible to correct for all these different confounders. For that reason, we shouldn’t accept small positive effects of reduced red meat consumption as real.

Let’s clarify this point by looking at smoking. There has never been a randomized controlled trial that shows smoking causes lung cancer, yet we accept this as true. Why? Because the observational studies show an enormous increase in risk of lung cancer in people who smoke. The relative risk of lung cancer in smokers is around 2,000% more than in non-smokers. In other words, there is a twenty-fold increase in lung cancer.

In order to accept a difference as real in an observational study with lots of scope for confounding, the difference should really be at least a doubling or a halving. If the difference is less than that, then the relationship is most likely not causal.

Anyway, let’s dig in to the data. As mentioned, the first review looked at cohort studies that compared intake of red meat and cancer incidence. In order to be included in the systematic review, studies had to have at least 1,000 participants. 118 studies were included in the analysis, with a total of six million participants.

So, what did they find?

A decrease in intake of red meat of three portions (roughly 360 grams) per week was correlated with a 7% reduction in the relative risk of cancer. However, the result was not statistically significant. When the researchers broke the data down by different types of cancer, they still were not able to find a statistically significant correlation between red meat and any type of cancer. Red meat did not correlate significantly with breast cancer, or prostate cancer, or gastric cancer, or esophageal cancer, or pancreatic cancer.

Red meat didn’t even correlate with colorectal cancer, which I was taught in medical school is definitely caused, at least in part, by eating red meat. In fact, when it comes to colorectal cancer, there wasn’t even a hint that red meat might increase the risk. The change in relative risk was exactly zero percent.

What can we conclude?

As mentioned earlier, anything less than a halving or doubling of relative risk in a study of this type isn’t a meaningful result. And here we have a piddling 7% relative risk reduction, that isn’t even statistically significant, in spite of the huge data set. So I think it is safe to say that the weight of evidence available from cohort studies is telling us that red meat does not increase the risk of cancer. Someone should tell the WHO.

Let’s move on to the second systematic review, which was looking to see if there was any correlation between intake of red meat and heart disease, as well as with overall risk of death. This review was also looking at cohort studies, so all the previous comments about confounding and being skeptical of small effects still apply. As in the previous review, studies were required to have at least 1,000 participants in order to be included in the analysis.

A total of 61 articles, with altogether four million participants, were included in the analysis. Here’s what they found.

A reduction in intake of red meat of three portions per week was correlated with a 7% relative reduction in mortality over the course of follow-up, which averaged eleven years. Just as with the previous review, the relationship was not statistically significant. There was also a 5% reduction in the relative risk of cardiovascular disease, which again, was not statistically significant.

There was a 10% relative reduction in risk of type 2 diabetes and a 6% relative reduction in risk of stroke. These two last ones were statistically significant according to the reviewers, but only because they’ve forgotten to adjust for the fact that they’re looking at a whole bunch of relationships at once. As I’ve written about many times on this blog, a p-value of 0,05 (equivalent to a confidence interval of 95%) only applies when you’re looking at a single relationship. If you look at multiple relationships, you have to use stricter criteria for statistical significance, or you increase your risk of false positive results enormously. Unfortunately no-one who does medical research seems to be aware of this, and none of the people who do peer-review for the major medical journals seem to be aware of it either. After adjustment for looking at multiple variables simultaneously, these relationships also lose their statistical significance.

We already know that red meat doesn’t cause type 2 diabetes because type 2 diabetes is non-existent in primitive hunter-gathering societies, which have a much higher intake of red meat than even the most carnivorous western societies. Yet the moment people from these hunter-gathering tribes switch to our westernized lifestyle, with a much lower intake of red meat (and, incidentally, a much higher intake of carbohydrates), the prevalence of type 2 diabetes explodes.

To me, the fact that pretty much any bad thing you look at is connected with a small 5-10% increase in relative risk when you increase your consumption of red meat by a few portions shows that it’s not the red meat itself that is the cause. It defies belief that the same single factor would cause whatever negative health outcome you care to look at. Rather, reduced intake of red meat is correlated with other healthy behaviors, because everyone “knows” that red meat is bad, and it is these other healthy behaviors that are confounding the results. By telling everyone that red meat is bad for decades, authorities have created a self fulfilling prophecy, where any bad health outcome you care to look at will be correlated with red meat intake. At least that will be the case as long as you rely on observational data.

Which is why we need data that isn’t observational. We need randomized controlled trials. Luckily, the third article by the group of researchers is a systematic review of randomized controlled trials of the health effects of red meat consumption.

In order to be included in the review, the difference in red meat consumption between the intervention group and the control group had to be at least one serving per week, and participants had to be followed for at least six months. Twelve trials were identified that fulfilled these criteria, with the smallest including only 32 participants and the largest including 49,000 participants.

Unfortunately, only two of the trials provided data on how many people died during follow-up, and on how many people had serious cardiovascular events during follow-up. One of these had 49,000 participants (the famous Women’s Health Initiative study), while the other only had 600 participants and was stopped early (a big no-no, as any regular reader of this blog knows, because it invalidates the results). The researchers therefore very reasonably decided to ignore the study with 600 participants and base their conclusions on the study with 49,000 participants.

An advantage with this study, other than the enormous size, was that it followed patients for over a decade, which is a fantastically long follow-up period for a randomized controlled trial.

The main disadvantage was that it only included post-menopausal women, which makes it harder to draw firm all-encompassing conclusions. Will men and women be affected differently by eating red meat? Will pre- and postmenopausal women be affected differently? Who knows. My guess is probably not, but without data it’s impossible to say.

Another disadvantage is that the study wasn’t really looking at what happens when you reduce red meat. It was looking at what happens when you reduce fat intake, and the reduction in red meat was an indirect consequence of reducing fat. What this means is that confounders are being let in through the back door. If you do find a difference between the groups, is it due to the red meat reduction, or the fat reduction, or some other indirect dietary change? It’s impossible to know.

Randomized controlled trials of diet interventions often have this problem, because people will always compensate for changes in their diet. If people are told to eat less of one thing, they will usually eat more of other things. And foods are not like drugs, that usually only contain a single active substance. Even simple foods contain a huge number of different substances, all of which have the potential to confound the results.

Obviously this is a big problem – if this study did turn out to show a reduction in bad things with a reduction in red meat intake, it would be impossible to say whether it was due to the red meat or to some confounding factor, so in that sense, this data is not much better than the observational cohort study data we’ve already discussed.

On average, the participants in the intervention group reduced their intake of red meat by 20%, which worked out to 168 grams per week. So, what happened?

In the intervention group there was a 1% reduction in the relative risk of death. However, it was not even close to being statistically significant. Considering that this was a study with almost 50,000 people, we can be pretty sure that increased red meat consumption does not increase your risk of pre-mature death to any meaningful extent, at least if you’re a post-menopausal woman.

Data was also provided on death from cardiovascular disease, stroke, breast cancer, and cancer more generally. These also all showed marginal relative risk reductions with reduced intake of red meat, none of which were anywhere close to being statistically significant.

So that’s it. This is the sum of evidence that exists on red meat and health outcomes. I think the data we’ve discussed in this article illustrate quite clearly that the official dietary recommendations to limit intake of red meat are not supported by the evidence. These studies constitute the best available evidence that exists on red meat and health, and none of them can show that red meat results in any negative health outcomes. The evidence that does exist is extremely weak and rife with confounders, the effect sizes are tiny, and there is no statistically significant relationship anywhere you look.

What can we conclude?

The best available evidence suggests that there are no negative health consequences associated with eating red meat. If there are any negative consequences, the effect sizes are so tiny that they’re really not even remotely worth bothering about.

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78 thoughts on “Is red meat unhealthy?”

  1. You need to read work by PCRM and Nutritional Facts. By your own admission your selected research is confused by the fact you eat animals yourself.

    I’ve been vegan all my life. Anecdotal but all my social connections are now being prescribed statins/aspirin.

    Notwithstanding the benefit to MY environment and the animals YOU eat… it would also be helpful for you to stop killing yourself.

    1. “the benefit to MY environment and the animals YOU eat” What ? Veganism is really bad news for animals, when you’ve persuaded everyone else to go vegan it’s curtains for cows, sheep, pigs etc. our closest animal friends will be a historical memory

  2. Excellent job, Dr. Rushworth, another myth put to bed. I believe there are actually three groups of people, in addition to the kind that care about their health and try to do healthy things and the type that does whatever they like and doesn’t care, there are the people like me, many of my friends, and you. These are the skeptics who ask the right questions and don’t believe everything government agencies and activists tell us. Eating red meat gave us our big brains it is possible that eliminating this wonderful food from our diets could cause a devolution and smaller brains….

    So, make my steak thick and bloody!

  3. I’d love to see some reviews of studies that look at the health differences between people eating conventionally raised meats and meats coming from animals that are pasture raised and fed organic foods minus hormones and antibiotics. The quality of what we eat and the quality of what animals eat, surely makes a big difference to health outcomes.

    I want my fruits and vegetables to come from healthy, living soil, not soil killed by chemical inputs and I want the meat that I eat fo come from ethical animal practices that also include eating living clean foods.

    1. YES!
      And a study that looks at the difference between eating grass-fed, grass-finished meats without thoughts of gratitude and respect for the animal and its ecosystem, and same eating with gratitude and respect. IOW… does mindset at the time of eating impact the long range results? This might include knowing the source or not, qualitative analysis of the ambience at slaughter, or even how the meat is prepared….
      So many “variable” and “confounders” that lie outside the material scientific box.

  4. I am with Tamara on this. I try to buy high quality meat, ideally organic and with high welfare standards, and we don’t eat meat at every meal. So we eat small quantities of high quality protein with plenty of vegetables and we avoid “additives”. This seems to me to be a sensible diet for humans.

  5. Thanks very much for this article. I’ve never really got “vegetarianism on health grounds”. Good to know the science supports that.

    On the other hand, I am trying to reduce my red meat consumption (particularly beef) in the interests of the environment.

  6. Some past red meat health studies may have used data from times before most people had fridges, so they often ate staler and perhaps borderline rotten meat, and (probably more relevant) relied more on smoked and salted meat such as ham and bacon, in which case any effect may be caused by additives and not the meat per se.

  7. This makes it worse. You have not reviewed ‘all’ studies. It’s not something a junior doctor has time for.

    1. No I haven’t reviewed all studies, because there are thousands. I’ve reviewed the latest, most comprehensive systematic reviews. These are their results. The systematic reviews were published in Annals of Internal Medicine, which is one of the five most prestigious medical journals, so the quality of the data is as good as you can get. If you think they’ve cherry picked their data somehow, you’re welcome to tell me how.

  8. I was a strict vegetarian for 38 years, a non-smoker and I ran every day. I ended up in hospital with very, very high blood pressure, informed that I had a 1 in 3 chance of having a heart attack or stroke and was prescribed Lipitor. Before I took any statins I spent some time looking at the evidence the benefits/risk of statins and the evidence for the cause of cvd. I then adopted a high fat, low carb diet and began eating meat. Within two months I had lost 2st 4lb and my bp was normal. Needless to say, unlike my neighbour who is a vegetarian, I am not on statins.

  9. Cows, pigs, sheep, goats, etc, are all Carbon-neutral and do not harm the environment. Livestock makes use of marginal land that is not suitable for cropping and that would otherwise not be utilized. It is simply not true that livestock harms the environment, this is a story circulated by activists and is based on nothing but wishful thinking and fantasy.

    Enjoy your healthy meat without any guilt that you are being a hypocrite or contributing to CAGW. There is no scientific proof that meat eating is harmful to the environment, quite the opposite. This is a field in which I am an active researcher for over 30 years.

  10. Could you point me to some scientific studies to support your case please? In particular looking at the methane production of ruminants and its effect on the environment, and on the destruction of rainforest in the Amazon to produce soya beans as cattle feed.

  11. Tack för att du finns, Sebastian – du är en klok och klar röst i ett tröttande sorl av olika ekonomiska agendor💖🤗

  12. It doesn’t matter whether you are carnivore or vegan, the outcome is the same, dead!

    Why should it matter to someone of a particular persuasion (who mentioned vegans?) if others choose to get their nutrition from different sources? Non-chemical production is the best way, whatever you choose, however there are nutrients which are available only from animal sources, and which humans need. A book which might interest some is “Meat – A Benign Extravagance” by Simon Fairlie. Will present a light hearted view.

  13. How interesting, could you point me in the direction of some further reading I could do .
    Thank you .

  14. My primary reasons for being vegan are animal rights and environmentalism. I’m always so disappointed to see articles like this ignore these primary reasons why people avoid exploiting animals.

  15. Thank you, Dr. Rushworth. I aim for about 450 g red meat per day, so I should have been dead a long time ago!

  16. Dr. Rushworth, I read your articles and share them as they are informative, but on this one you have missed the mark. By the way the research on cancer was related to processed meat. I am also not sure where pamealdragon is doing her research but I invite her to check this out.
    The fundamental issue of meat (and dairy) is not a health or even environmental one. I do have to say that trotting out the vision of animals happily roaming the land misses the point that over 95% of our meat and dairy comes for intensive factory farming. It is an incredibly cruel industry and one we are responsible for every time we consume meat or dairy. Here is the test. If you can go out and slaughter the animal, go ahead and eat meat, if you are ok with millions of of male chicks being ground alive daily, go ahead and eat eggs. “As above, so below” is a law we live by, whether we know it or not. “Do unto others as you would have done unto you” is the psychological version of it. We have been imprisoning animals against their will, torturing, experimenting on them and killing them on a mass scale. Now its our turn to be imprisoned, tortured and experimented upon. And this party is just starting. We can lie to ourselves, but we cannot lie to energy.

  17. I’m surprised you didn’t review all of the studies looking at red meat and Prostate cancer, in particular the studies that describe the metabolic pathways by which red meat contributes to Prostate cancer?

    1. These systematic reviews did include prostate cancer. They didn’t find an effect. If you believe x causes y, it’s always easy to come up with a plausible explanation for why that is the case. But if x doesn’t cause y, the explanation becomes meaningless.

  18. In the late 1990’s, when I was conduction research (along side Canada’s leading urologists) pertaining to the relationship between nutrition and prostate cancer, I found substantial information linking meat metabolism in humans with prostate cancer. As it was a while ago, I cannot at this time put my finger on those studies right now. Do you mean by your comments to me, that this information has been disproven?

    1. What I’m saying is that in the systematic review, they were not able to find a statistically significant correlation between red meat intake and prostate cancer. If a causative relationship does exist, it must be very weak, and the effect size must be very small. While correlation cannot prove causation, lack of correlation usually means lack of causation.

  19. The problem with meat (red or otherwise) is not a direct health problem but it’s an environmental problem of hugely underrated proportions, unknown to most of the population.
    Extensive meat production is the first cause of deforestation on earth (because a lot of forest is burnt to grow food intended to feed cattle) and one of the major contributor to oceans’ hypoxia (dead zones).
    See also Cowspiracy documentary: contains somewhat biased opinions but still an interesting source to raise awareness on this subject. You can learn for example, that it is necessary to use 2500 L of water to produce something like 100g of beef meat, and it is an easy calculation to verify because the age of slaughter of an animal exploited in such production is known and its average water consumption and “ideal” weight is known too…

  20. AJ, you can indeed read it takes a huge amount of wate to produce a small amount of beef. But then you could read Simon Fairlie’s book and see that it does not take. huge amount of water if they are pasture fed in places where pasture grows well. Don’t try to grow beef in arid areas.

  21. We are of the same mindset. I will also add that there is a difference between grass fed beef and grain fed (or whatever it is they put in the feed of cows). The grass fed meat is higher in many helpful nutrients including omega 3 fatty acids and minerals that have the effect of decreased inflammation (which in general is the root cause of chronic disease). I would love to see a review of the literature on the nutritional differences between grass fed and grain fed beef, as well as a long term analysis of the differences in outcome between those who consume grass fed beef regularly versus those who consume grain fed and those who avoid beef altogether.

  22. I have heard others say the same. Grass fed beef is full of anti-inflammatory nutrients including omega 3 fatty acids. Bone broth is healing and nutritious. I’m glad you posted.

  23. You are talking apples and oranges here under the name ‘red meat’.
    In that our ancestors ate meat that was free of glyphosate and etc, that was not fed antibiotics, GM or industrial food waste effluent to support for a factory farmed existence and etc.
    Processed meats are then subject to other chemicals that may or may not have effects on the body of those who eat them.

    This argument can to some degree apply also to tobacco saturated in pesticide and adulterated with other chemicals.
    First they came for Tobacco – because it was the leverage by which to mandate social engineering by medical mandate that cherry picked on of many as a creation of guilted scapegoats and virtue signalling.

    The standard presumptions that a name makes things the ‘same’ comes into diagnosis also.
    Naming magic runs through so called climate science no less, and it is called on as a basis to demonise anything that the social engineers want to choke back so as to run their replacement – as with the demonising of butter and fats for margerine and Big Ag seed oils.

    I have no issue with those who choose to eat meat or to choose not to eat meat, as long as no one forces their narratives onto others under coercion and deceit (masking as science or otherwise).
    Centralised top down economies operate monocultures and monopoly.
    Health starts in the soil microbiota.
    Human health no less.
    We need to find and hold the conditions for micro-economies to grow instead of under a canopy of antibiotic denial.

  24. Thank you for the review and for debunking outdated recommendations in general.
    Especially health habits and nutrition are subjects that actually are greatly influenced by our beliefs and experiences. Most people who have found a way to tackle own health issues tend to generalize their results. But what is great for one isn’t necessarily as good for their neighbour. We have different styles of metabolism which show different needs for optimal function. Some do very good as fruitarians eating lots of carbs, others shun carbs and thrive on a ketogenic diet. Some need all their food cooked, others eat raw food, and all have improved their well-being with the special kind of diet they resonate with. To me it’s really more about finding out what fits best for the individual at the place and situation they’re at, knowing that humans are kind of omnivores naturally.

  25. It does not change the main problem: the “civilized” world is producing and eating more meat each year and it creates globally unsustainable ecocides. Look back a hundred years ago and see if your great grand parents were eating meat 2 or 3 times a day. They would have to be from the upper dominant class to do so, an exception, not the norm. People should not eat fresh meat more than once a week, in my humble opinion. Fermented or dried meat could still be consumed in small quantities more often. But you can achieve a good nutrition level with very few or almost null animal products. Once upon a time in so called “primitive” societies there used to be taboos about the time to eat fish or hunt animals. You would not fish when the season would not permit it. Nowadays with intensive production we are far away from our sustainable ancestors… too far. And we’re 10 times the population.

  26. Alexandros, of course we must be aware the author , John Mcdougall promotes carbohydrate based low fat diets, I wonder if this bight have caused bias in the article.

    John McDougall, MD, is medical director of the McDougall Program, a 10-day residential program located in Santa Rosa, California. Dr. McDougall uses a low-fat, starch-based diet that results in dramatic health benefits and can reverse serious illness, ……………..”

    I wonder if he wrote that bit too.

  27. Hello Again,

    I learned from you, recently, that health authorities have decided that we can have a disease without symptoms. I read this and learn that health authorities have done thousands of studies and still aren’t sure what we should eat. It would appear to the layperson that health authorities don’t have bodies.

    I still can’t tell for certain if you’re really a young doctor telling the truth about science or a writer taking the piss out of experts. Either way, I’m this close to clicking that subscribe on Patreon.

  28. Kora Klapp: Indeed, it is up to the individual to figure out what foods give them optimal health. It is so perfectly ridiculous for governments to advise people what to eat (and give advice about many other things, too). This is the job of parents and grandparents, and with the internet, an enormous group of people who, collectively, know far more than any “expert.” I’ve enjoyed excellent health for 70+ years, but switching to the Carnivore Diet last May has brought further improvements. My digestion is the best it has ever been, and I feel a wonderful sense of calm all the time, despite all the nuttiness in life–especially last year! Eating certain families of plants were not doing me any good.

  29. Gary Ogden, I agree that our eating habits often are primed in the family we live in. However, in the end everybody is their own best expert, and the things we find out ourselves and make experience with will be game-changers that stick with us – congratulations to your success in improving your well-being at 70+!
    Then, we like to be confirmed by science that can explain the way our diet works. But then, studies usually focus on only one component, which is why results can easily change together with the setup and the factors taken into account…

  30. Nodrog. The article was not about the rights / wrongs / merits or otherwise of veganism though your targetted reply was an opportunity to push your personal agenda. The article was about whether red meat was unhealthy. Healthy or not, you’ll never know the wonder of a succulent grass-fed steak nor reap the benefits of it’s nutrients.

  31. Kora, you are correct about many studies focussing on only one thing. Unfortunately that “thing” often is the financial gain for the study’s sponsor.

  32. Unfortunately there is very little science and whole lot of special interest pressure involved in nutrition research.

  33. pameladragon: You could substitute several things for the word ‘nutrition’ in you statement–and still be quite correct…

  34. Perfect! 23 years ago I decided to quit smoking but continued to eat red meat.

    I like to hear it that I have done everything right! :-))

    Thanks Sebastian

    Bye Jens

  35. So the question begs. Why are so misinformed by scientists so often. WE ARE TOLD TRUST THE SCIENCE. I would if I could trust the scientists.

  36. You missed the elephant in the room: the now classic China Study by Colin Campbell is a HUGE longitudinal study, and it compares truly different diets, as opposed to most common studies that seek to investigate small, and frankly meaningless, variations on the same fundamental theme that is our ordinary Western diet. Campbell himself warned repeatedly against this kind of expensive and mostly useless mainstream research. Besides, when you research primitive cultures with truly different diets to our own, you also find invariably a different set of common diseases to our own. Even our own Western society has never had in the past the current levels of cancer and heart disease that are caused mainly by our diet and lifestyle.

    I generally appreciate your skeptical attitude, especially towards the mainstream drivel on Covid, but this time I believe you slipped.

    1. The China study wasn’t huge. It was a relatively small observational study with 6,500 individuals. The reviews of observational studies I discuss here each contain a couple million individuals. And the last review I discuss in my article focuses on a randomized trial that contained almost 50,000 people. The China study doesn’t even come close in terms of evidence quality.

  37. Adrian Archer, one way to tell if the scientist speaking is legit or not is that a good one will never say, “The science is settled.” Science is never settled but constantly being revised as new data is acquired. Real scientists also welcome debate and honest exchange of ideas.

  38. Adrian Archer, I just found this line in a comment on another site that deals with CAGW. It does explain a lot….

    “Studies”, these days need not involve science, or even data in some cases. The new #science is ‘expert’ opinion based and often driven by political activism.

  39. Interesting how revealing some of the comments are of the current political climate of justification for lying for a good cause.
    The article shows that the currently available, quality evidence disapproves the belief that the consumption of red meat is detrimental to one’s health, nothing more.
    Yet, some of the comments see it as inappropriate or dangerous preferring that the people would continue to be lied to in the name of a good cause of animal rights, environment, etc.
    I am not against them but I do not believe that any good cause justifies lying and spreading misinformation.

  40. Andre Socha: Noble Cause Corruption, sadly now very common across all fields of research. A switch up on the End Justifies the Means.

  41. The thing in short supply the scientific evidence base is studies comparing average intakes of arachidonic acid to historical intakes of same. Excerpt from 1992 article: “Within the last 50 years, changing nutritional habits in Western communities led to a fourfold increase in the supply of dietary arachidonic acid (AA), provoked by the same increase in the consumption of meat and meat products.”

    Excerpt from 2003 article: A diet low in arachidonic acid ameliorates clinical signs of inflammation in patients with RA and augments the beneficial effect of fish oil supplementation.

    Excerpt from 2019 article: Results: While there were no differences regarding the plaque values, the experimental group showed a significant reduction in gingival bleeding, a significant increase in Vitamin D values and a significant weight loss.

    I have commented extensively on the arachidonic acid aspect of the obesity/chronic inflammatory disease pandemic. For example:

  42. My question would be similar to Adrian Archer. If what you say is true (and this applies to COVID too), WHY? Why are we told by governments and scientists that red meat is bad, etc etc? I am a skeptical person, but this also applies to reading your article. If what you say is true, WHY are we always being told the opposite? Are you the only person Sebastian to figure this out? Surely that’s unlikely, so WHY hasn’t this hit mainstream media? What have the people telling us these things got to gain? We’re always told that the lobbying and power comes from big corporates, who are behind poisoning the planet and poisoning us, and yet there must clearly be an even more powerful group who are able to control scientists and governments that constantly undermines the evil corporates and tells us “red meat is bad”, etc etc…

    I don’t believe in conspiracy theories, there would need to be hundreds of thousands of people involved, all of whom would need to be able to keep a secret!

    So, as with the COVID lockdowns (which I don’t agree with), again I ask WHY would we be told these things if they’re not true? For whose benefit? Whilst there is of course commercial interests with veganism and “green” products (nothing wrong with that), these are still small compared to the sums involved in “conventional” business, so surely they don’t have much power.

    Is it just incompetence? Surely this can’t be true either on such a large scale.

    Sebastian, I personally find your blogs interesting and find myself generally agreeing with them, but I just can’t figure out the motivation behind those peddling the messages you’re arguing against.

    1. Hi,
      I am also generally not a believer in conspiracy theories. I think this is the results of a confluence of many different factors. The first is low quality observational studies back in the 60’s and 70’s that appeared to show a relationship between saturated fat and cholesterol intake and heart disease. These were taken up by governments who wanted to give their populations advice on what to eat. Unfortunately this resulted in a whole generation of dieticians, nutritionists and other so called “experts” being trained in this advice, and once you’ve built a big mental edifice around one idea it’s hard to shift, so they stick with these old recommendations and ignore the contiuous stream of evidence showing that they’re wrong. And then there is the sugar industry, which has been working hard since the 1950’s to make everyone think fat is unhealthy in order to take the attention off sugar. This is very well documented. And there is the pharmaceutical industry, which has been pushing the cholesterol hypothesis hard ever since the first statin came on the market, and will likely continue to do so as long as they continue to sell cholesterol lowering drugs. And now we also have the vegan and the climate change lobbies, that push the idea that meat is unhealthy for their own reasons.

  43. Perhaps you should ask your social environment if they eat a lot of (processed) carbs, because high sugar levels leads to oxidated cholesterol that remains in the blood vessels instead their destination tissue. Read up on APO B 100, this receptor gets destroyed by high sugar levels. Maybe instead of statins they need to consume less carbs.

  44. @AhNotepad Earth will soon surpass 8 billion people. Where will this grass fed beef come from in the future?? When we hit 10 billion? Factory farming was invented for a reason, there is not enough real estate for everyone to have grass fed beef and free range chickens.

    Many people understand the desire to eat animals trajectory we are on is not sustainable. Should we just dismiss it and pass it on to the next generation?

  45. @Skippy Malone you are assuming that Earth’s population will continue to increase until the entire planet is nothing but a swarming mass of humanity. This is Malthusian thinking, an idea that despite endless debunking still seems to attract a lot of adherents. In fact, what happens is that as a population becomes more wealthy and achieves a higher standard of living they also stop producing so many children. Most western countries are barely replacing themselves, many couples choosing to have only a single child or two. The best way to limit population growth, if that is your goal, is to bring all countries up to the same excellent standard of living that is enjoyed by the USA and most of Europe. When all of your offspring survive to adulthood and are not needed to work the fields it ceases to be necessary to keep bringing more into the world.

    As for factory farms, they exist for purely economic reasons and have nothing to do with the available land for pasture. It is a lot easier to cram a lot of animals together for fattening. This makes feeding and watering more efficient if less humane for the animals. The faster the animal gets a good finish and goes to market the more profit to be had. I do not condone this style of raising food animals but it exists because it is profitable.

  46. While factory-farmed, GMO corn-fed meat pumped full of antibiotics is clearly bad for the environment, traditional, regenerative animal farming practices certainly do not harm the planet. It’s an important distinction both from the point of view of the environment, as well as the significant nutritional differences.

    I’d have no problem with the mass of fast-food burger eaters becoming vegan to massively reduce the demand for factory farmed meat, while those of us that appreciate traditionally farmed grass-fed meat continue to do our bit for our own health and that of the planet. 😉

  47. Please present data that beef production is carbon neutral! If it would be Bison in the wild, I could accept your claim. But it seems you are in denial here! Add the fact that beef is flown over continents in order to make the menu more attractive, what a bullcrap, pardon the pun!

    1. “Is it possible all this media coverage to demonise red meat is part of a bigger climate change agenda?” – “possible”: yes, I guess. “likely”: maybe. Please provide more reasoning for what you mean, remember the burden of proof is on your side if you think this is a genuine and reasonable speculation.

  48. Sorry, but the International Agency for Research on Cancer WHO has shared the risks of red meat and processed meat. Red meat is a group 1 carcinogen, and processed meat is a group 2a carcinogen.

    1. Where does sugar and other carbohydrates feature in the scales? Since cancer is a metabolic condition, carbs will feature strongly

    2. Yuri: Have you looked at the evidence upon which WHO drew its conclusions? If you do, you will find it is all based upon observational studies, which are based upon food-frequency questionnaires, among the weakest of evidence, and so filled with confounders as to be not fit for purpose except in a study of how to do bad science.

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