New “Guidelines” Say Continue Red Meat Consumption Habits, But Recommendations Contradict Evidence

A controversial “dietary guidelines recommendation” published in Annals of Internal Medicine suggests that adults can continue to consume red meat and processed meat at current levels of intake.

This recommendation runs contradictory to the large body of evidence indicating higher consumption of red meat—especially processed red meat—is associated with higher risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancers, and premature death. However, according to the Annals authors, their guidelines were based on a series of “rigorous” systematic reviews (published simultaneously that would presumably account for all this available evidence.

Confused? We asked our experts to take a closer look at the research behind these guidelines. You can find the in-depth analysis below, but here are their key takeaways:

  • The new guidelines are not justified as they contradict the evidence generated from their own meta-analyses. Among the five published systematic reviews, three meta-analyses basically confirmed previous findings on red meat and negative health effects.
  • The publication of these studies and the meat guidelines in a major medical journal is unfortunate because following the new guidelines may potentially harm individuals’ health, public health, and planetary health. It may also harm the credibility of nutrition science and erode public trust in scientific research. In addition, it may lead to further misuse of systematic reviews and meta-analyses, which could ultimately result in further confusion among the general public and health professionals.
  • This is a prime example where one must look beyond the headlines and abstract conclusions. It is important for journalists, health professionals, and researchers to look beyond the sensational headlines and even the abstracts of the papers to verify the evidence behind the claims. It’s also crucial to understand that nutrition research is a long and evolving process, and therefore critical to look at the totality of the evidence.
  • These studies should not change current recommendations on healthy and balanced eating patterns for the prevention of chronic diseases. Existing recommendations are based on solid evidence from randomized controlled studies with cardiovascular risk factors as the outcomes, as well as long-term epidemiologic studies with cardiovascular disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and mortality as outcomes. To improve both human health and environmental sustainability, it is important to adopt dietary patterns that are high in healthy plant-based foods and relatively low in red and processed meats.

Read the in-depth analysis at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health . . . . .

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Review Supports Red Meat in Diet

Dennis Thompson wrote . . . . . . . . .

There’s a lurking dread in the back of the minds of many people who love steak, burgers and bacon — the fear that what they enjoy eating might not be doing their health any favors.

But a major new review argues that folks can set those fears aside.

Cutting back on consumption of red meat or processed meat will not significantly reduce a person’s risk of heart disease or cancer, the evidence review concluded.

“Based on the research, we cannot say with any certainty that eating red meat or processed meat causes cancer, diabetes or heart disease,” said senior researcher Bradley Johnston. He’s an associate professor of community health and epidemiology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

As you can imagine, leading cancer and heart associations didn’t warm to the new findings.

The study’s conclusions were reached in part because the researchers considered people’s values and preferences as they crafted their recommendations, said Marji McCullough, a nutritional epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society.

It’s no surprise that people who enjoy red meat would rather keep eating it, she said.

“It’s kind of like saying ‘we know helmets can save lives, but some people still prefer the feeling of the wind in their hair.’ And let’s face it, most people will be OK, they won’t crash,” McCullough said. “But everyone agrees you should wear a helmet, because public health recommendations are based on their effects on the population.”

However, using the evidence collected by the review, an international panel of experts have issued new dietary guidelines saying that most adults can keep eating as much red and processed meat as they like — a recommendation that’s contrary to nearly all other existing guidelines.

But study author Johnston defended the conclusions. “This is not ‘just another study’ on red and processed meat,” he said, “but a series of five high-quality systematic reviews to inform dietary recommendations.”

As a result, the expert panel’s recommendation on red meat is “far more transparent, robust and reliable” than other guidelines, Johnston said.

The full package of five evidence reviews and the expert panel’s recommendation was published online Oct. 1 in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the journal of the American College of Physicians.

Current estimates indicate that adults in North America and Europe eat red meat and processed meat about three to four times a week, researchers said in background notes.

Many studies continue to report that red and processed meat is bad for you. For example, a Harvard-led study published June 12 in the BMJ concluded that people who increase their red meat intake by just half a serving a day boost their risk of dying over the next eight years by 10%.

But Johnston and his colleagues wondered if pooling the evidence obtained from high-quality studies and clinical trials might paint a different picture.

It did, as it turns out.

Among 12 clinical trials enrolling about 54,000 individuals, the researchers did not find any statistically significant or important association between meat consumption and the risk of heart disease, diabetes or cancer.

The researchers also pooled evidence from observational studies following millions of participants, and did find a very small reduction in risk among those who consumed three fewer servings of red or processed meat per week. However, they concluded the association was very uncertain.

These findings led a 14-member panel of experts from seven countries to conclude that adults could continue to eat red and processed meat as they now do.

The review focused solely on health considerations, and did not consider ethical or environmental reasons for abstaining from meat, the researchers noted.

Other research recently has shown that red meat consumption increases a person’s carbon footprint, contributing to global warming.

“We sought to clarify the evidence on health outcomes only, while noting that we are sympathetic to animal welfare and environmental concerns,” said Johnston, lead author of the new guidelines. “Indeed, a number of the guideline panel members have eliminated or reduced their personal red and processed meat intake for animal welfare or environmental reasons.”

The new research runs counter to a 2015 World Health Organization evidence review, which concluded that processed meat is a proven carcinogen and red meat is a probable carcinogen, based on the evidence for colorectal cancer, McCullough said.

“Therefore, the American Cancer Society continues to recommend limiting consumption of processed meat, as well as red meat, in order to save lives from cancer,” McCullough said.

“They’re not saying meat is less risky,” McCullough said. “They’re saying the risk that everyone agrees on is acceptable for individuals.”

The American Heart Association (AHA) also maintains its dim view of red and processed meat.

There’s strong evidence that you can improve your heart health by cutting down on saturated fat, said Alice Lichtenstein, an AHA expert and professor of nutrition science and policy at Tufts University in Boston.

“Major sources of saturated fat include meat and full-fat dairy,” Lichtenstein said. “Focusing on a single food or category of foods is overly simplistic and serves to misinform the public.”

One flaw of the new evidence review is that, while it included studies with vegetarian participants, it did not compare the health of those who eat meat against those who don’t, said Dr. Neal Barnard, founding president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a group that advocates for plant-based diets.

It’s true that people who eat meat less than once a week have about the same health risks as people who eat more meat, Barnard said.

But it’s also true that both those groups are much less healthy than people who cut meat completely out of their diets, he said.

“The headlines are going to say ‘burger lovers rejoice, you can eat all the meat you want,’ and that’s a completely irresponsible message,” Barnard said. “The correct message is that little changes give you little results. Big changes give you big results. You can choose what you want to do,” he added.

“It’s the equivalent of doing a review of the benefit of cutting down on cigarettes as opposed to quitting smoking,” Barnard concluded.

Source: HealthDay

Read also at SCMP:

Is eating red meat bad for you? Debate over new research reveals divisions among nutritionists . . . . .

Red and White Meats Are Equally Bad for Cholesterol

Flying in the face of popular belief, new research suggests both red meat and white meat can drive up your cholesterol levels.

The study was conducted by researchers from the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI), part of the University of California, San Francisco. The analysis is reportedly the first to comprehensively compare the impact that red and white meat have on cholesterol.

Red meat, such as beef and lamb, has become unpopular in recent years because of its association with heart disease, and government nutrition guidelines have encouraged consumers to eat poultry as a healthier alternative, the researchers noted.

“When we planned this study, we expected red meat to have a more adverse effect on blood cholesterol levels than white meat, but we were surprised that this was not the case,” said study senior author Dr. Ronald Krauss. “Their effects on cholesterol are identical when saturated fat levels are equivalent.”

Krauss is senior scientist and director of atherosclerosis research at CHORI.

After tracking how red meat, white meat and plant protein all impacted cholesterol levels, Krauss and his team determined that both red and white meat prompted higher blood cholesterol levels than diets containing an equivalent amount of plant protein. (Grass-fed beef, fish and processed meat products such as bacon were not included in the analysis.)

The finding held up even after accounting for a high intake of saturated fats, investigators noted, and it suggests that the best way to keep cholesterol under control is to turn to non-meat proteins, such as vegetables, legumes and dairy products.

“Our results indicate that current advice to restrict red meat and not white meat should not be based only on their effects on blood cholesterol,” Krauss noted in a university news release. “Indeed, other effects of red meat consumption could contribute to heart disease, and these effects should be explored in more detail in an effort to improve health.”

The findings were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Source: University of California San Francisco

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New York’s Green New Deal will Slash Red Meat in City Facilities by 50%

Joshu Caplan wrote . . . . . . . . .

New York City plans to reduce the amount of red meat served in municipally-run facilities by half to combat climate change as part of the city’s recently-approved “Green New Deal.”

The city’s $14 billion “Green New Deal” includes plans to cut purchases of red meat by 50 percent and phase out purchases of processed meats in its city-run schools, hospitals, schools, and correctional facilities by 2040. The city would be first in the world to adopt a policy of this kind. The announcement comes after New York schools adopted Meatless Monday in an effort to encourage students to abstain from consuming meat one day a week to improve their health and the environment.

Chloe Waterman, who serves as Program Manager for the Climate-Friendly Food Program at Friends of the Earth, said of De Blasio’s proposal in a statement: “New York City is strengthening its climate leadership by acknowledging the importance of slashing consumption-based greenhouse gas emissions associated with factory farmed meat. Eliminating processed meat and cutting red meat purchases will pay dividends for the health of future generations and the planet.”

“We applaud Mayor de Blasio, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and all of the advocates who made today’s announcement possible. We hope other cities will soon follow suit,” Waterman concluded.

In announcing his Green New Deal on Monday, De Blasio said he also plans to introduce a bill banning new construction of glass skyscrapers as part of his efforts to reduce citywide greenhouse emissions by 30%.

The Democrat mayor, who is considering running for president in 2020, said all-glass facade skyscrapers are “incredibly inefficient” because so much energy escapes through the glass. The bill would require existing glass buildings to be retrofitted to meet new stricter carbon-emissions guidelines.

“If a company wants to build a big skyscraper they can use a lot of glass if they do all the other things needed to reduce the emissions,” de Blasio told reporters. “But putting up monuments to themselves that harmed our earth and threatened our future that will no longer be allowed in New York City.”

The mayor’s Green New Deal effort also includes plans to power all of the city’s operations with clean electricity sources like Canadian hydropower, mandatory organics recycling, congestion pricing, and the phasing-out of city purchases of single-use plastic food ware and processed meat.

City lawmakers passed the Climate Mobilization Act — referred to as New York’s own “Green New Deal” — in a 45-2 vote recently.

Source : Breitbart

The Risks of Eating Red Meat (Even in Small Portions)

Briana Pastorino wrote . . . . . . . . .

A new study out of Loma Linda University Health suggests that eating red and processed meats — even in small amounts — may increase the risk of death from all causes, especially cardiovascular disease.

Saeed Mastour Alshahrani, lead author of the study and a doctoral student at Loma Linda University School of Public Health, said the research fills an important gap left by previous studies that looked at relatively higher levels of red meat intake and compared them with low intakes.

“A question about the effect of lower levels of intakes compared to no-meat eating remained unanswered,” Alshahrani said. “We wanted to take a closer look at the association of low intakes of red and processed meat with all-cause, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer mortality compared to those who didn’t eat meat at all.”

This study, “Red and Processed Meat and Mortality in a Low Meat Intake Population” is part of the Adventist Health Study-2 (AHS-2), a prospective cohort study of approximately 96,000 Seventh-day Adventist men and women in the United States and Canada. The principal investigator of AHS-2 is Gary E. Fraser, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and epidemiology at Loma Linda University Health.

Adventists are a unique population — approximately 50 percent are vegetarians, and those who consume meat do so at low levels. This allowed researchers to investigate the effect of low levels of red and processed meat intake compared to zero-intake in a large setting such as the Adventist Health Study.

The study evaluated the deaths of over 7,900 individuals over an 11-year period. Diet was assessed by a validated quantitative food frequency questionnaire and mortality outcome data were obtained from the National Death Index. Of those individuals who consumed meat, 90 percent of them only ate about two ounces or less of red meat per day.

Nearly 2,600 of the reported deaths were due to cardiovascular disease, and over 1,800 were cancer deaths. Processed meat — modified to improve flavor through curing, smoking, or salting (such as ham and salami) — alone was not significantly associated with risk of mortality possibly due to a very small proportion of the population who consume such meat. However, the total intake of red and processed meat was associated with relatively higher risks of total and cardiovascular disease deaths.

Michael Orlich, MD, PhD, co-director of AHS-2 and co-author of the present study, said these new findings support a significant body of research that affirms the potential ill health effects of red and processed meats.

“Our findings give additional weight to the evidence already suggesting that eating red and processed meat may negatively impact health and lifespan,” Orlich said.

The study was published in Nutrients as part of the Special Issue, Dietary Assessment in Nutritional Epidemiology: Public Health Implications for Promoting Lifelong Health.

Source: Loma Linda University Health