Study: Meat bad for you. Meat industry: No it's not
Wed, 14 Mar 2012 1:30p.m.
By Dan Satherley
Steak, bacon, ribs and hot dogs – however you choose to eat your meat, it's bad for you. Or it isn't – it all depends on who you ask.
According to new research by the Harvard School of Public Health, eating any red meat increases the likelihood of premature death.
The results of the 20-year study were published online on Monday, and paint a bleak picture for anyone who enjoys a good, meaty barbecue.
Over 120,000 physicians and nurses were surveyed, and those who ate the most red meat were more likely to die over the course of the study.
Adding a daily piece of steak no bigger than a deck of cards to a person's diet was associated with a 13 percent higher risk of death, and adding a daily serving of processed meat – like a hot dog or two slices of bacon – led to a risk 20 percent higher.
“With evidence piling up against red meat, the associations we found were not surprising,” Dr Frank Hu, who co-authored the study, told the Boston Globe.
“What surprised us was the magnitude of the association. I think it should convince people to change to a more plant-based diet where red meat isn’t major component.”
The study found that those who ate nuts, fish poultry and whole grains instead of red meat had between 7 percent and 19 percent reduced risk of death during the study.
Beef + Lamb NZ, which represents New Zealand sheep and farmers, refuted the study's findings, saying it had "little significance" to Kiwis.
It claimed the methods used in the study were "known to be inaccurate and unreliable".
“The results of a single study never change dietary advice or recommendations, and this is no exception," says nutrition manager Fiona Carruthers.
"New Zealand beef and lamb contribute significant amounts of several nutrients to the diets of New Zealanders. Kiwis should therefore continue to enjoy red meat three-four times a week as part of an overall healthy lifestyle."
She called the researchers' conclusions "misleading", saying other studies have shown "no link at all" between eating red meat and mortality.
An article accompanying the study suggested something as simple as "Meatless Monday" could help, and that reducing consumption of red meat would not only benefit public health, but also reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
"Many people are surprised to learn that animal agribusiness generates more greenhouse gases than all forms of transportation combined," wrote Dr Dean Ornish.
Reducing demand for red meat would allow forests cleared for pasture to be replanted, he says, as well as freeing up more grains for human consumption, helping reduce worldwide malnutrition.
"Choosing to eat more plant-based foods and less red meat is better for all of us — ourselves, our loved ones, and our planet," writes Dr Ornish.
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26/03/2012 10:18:44 p.m.
NZ Beef and Lamb have to say something to counter such research, no matter how ridiculous it makes them look, because they're aware that any sign of dissent is enough doubt for people who don't want to change. Their statements reek of desperation, but they needn't worry because this ship takes a long time to turn.
19/03/2012 6:20:17 a.m.
I like red meat..pretty sure if we worried about ALLLLLL the things that "could" eventually kill us we would never leave the house...
16/03/2012 5:41:06 p.m.
Wow, New Zealand Beef & Lamb's response is similar to that of the tobacco companies decades ago when evidence for the link between smoking and cancer was first presented.
I'm a biochemistry student and, if you ask me, methodology for research like this doesn't come much better than a prospective study with a cohort of >120,000. Those hazard ratio confidence intervals are quite convincing.
I'm not surprised that a company funded entirely by farmers, distributors and retailers of red meat are attempting to reject this study.
Rather disgraceful to say the least, I wouldn't be surprised if there is major backlash to these comments on its way over the next few weeks.
15/03/2012 6:20:10 p.m.
Darwin Punk wrote:
If I hear the Evolutionary Reason We All Must Eat Meat one more time, I think I am going to scream.
15/03/2012 4:44:21 p.m.
I would love to see where the Beef and lamb industry found that this information is "known to be inaccurate and unreliable". I would believe Harvard School of Public over Beef and Lamb any day. I just hope people will begin to realize its a business, of course there not going to say its bad for you. They say they care about the health of people but if they really did they wouldn't just blow off the facts from a study on thousands of people. You can get all the nutrients you need from non animal foods so why would you risk being unhealthy just for your taste buds and convenience?
15/03/2012 10:41:59 a.m.
Both camps views are understandable and convincing. But when you look at the history of humanity. Most Evolutionary advances were made when our ancestors first started living near coastal areas and ate Fish. Long before they started habiting inland areas and started eating Red meats.
14/03/2012 2:47:06 p.m.
Ok - what were the causes of death? Cancer, stroke, heart disease, artereosclerosis, choking?
As for Beef & Lamb org saying that it had "little significance" to NZers - does that mean "Don't worry your little heads about it, we know best?"
We have been conditioned to a diet which includes red meat, and "we" should know that cattle-rearing is a major cause of deforestation and greenhouse gases. Eat more grains, and less protein.
I'd trust the independant Harvard School of Public Health before I trust any profit-driven farmer or anyone whose biz is to advocate for them.
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