Red meat is NOT a health threat—new study debunks years of junk 'research'

"We found weak evidence of association between unprocessed red meat consumption and colorectal cancer."

Katie Daviscourt Seattle WA

It looks like red meat isn't so bad for your health after all, as a recent study debunked years of claims that consuming red meat leads to a host of health problems, such as stroke, heart disease, and cancer, according to Big Think.

Scientists at the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) analyzed past research that led to the demonization of red meat and found the research to be supported by "weak evidence" and "lazy scientists."

"We found weak evidence of association between unprocessed red meat consumption and colorectal cancer, breast cancer, type 2 diabetes and ischemic heart disease. Moreover, we found no evidence of an association between unprocessed red meat and ischemic stroke or hemorrhagic stroke,” the scientists said.

The IHME researchers said that it's easy to find observational links between actions and outcomes, for example, eating a certain food can link to death or disease, but these studies are published in a lazy manner.

As a result, the researchers came up with a novel statistical method called the "burden of proof risk function" which is quantitatively used to "evaluate and summarize evidence of risk across different risk-outcome pairs", the outlet reports.

This gives researchers evaluating published data for a certain health risk the opportunity to use this function to provide a one to five-star rating system on the research.

"A one-star rating indicates that there may be no true association between the behavior or condition and the health outcome. Two stars indicates the behavior or condition is at least associated with a 0-15% change in the likelihood of a health outcome, while three stars indicates at least a 15-50% change, four stars indicates at least a 50-85% change, and five stars indicates a more than 85% change," IHME scientists state.

The researchers used this function on studies regarding red-meat consumption and found that none should have garnered more than a two-star rating, the outlet reports.

Dr. Steven Novella, a Yale neurologist and president of the New England Skeptical Society, said that, "The evidence for a direct vascular or heath risk from eating meat regularly is very low, to the point that there is probably no risk."

"There is, however, more evidence for a health risk from eating too few vegetables. That is really the risk of a high-meat diet, those meat calories are displacing vegetable calories," she added.

Going forward, the IHME team says that they plan to have their burden of proof function on a freely accessible database.

“In addition to helping consumers, our analysis can guide policymakers in developing health and wellness education programs, so that they focus on the risk factors with the greatest impact on health,” Dr. Emmanuela Gakidou, professor of health metrics sciences at IHME and a lead author of the study, said in a statement. "Health researchers can also use this analysis to identify areas where current evidence is weak and more definitive studies are needed."


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