Your Guide to Red Meat Consumption

By Mike Howard

2316-REDMEAT.jpgIf you’ve read health headlines recently, you’d think that red meat consumption is a one-way ticket to an early grave.

A recently-published Harvard study implied as much and media outlets couldn’t resist the provocative headlines: “Eating All Red Meat Increases Death and More Reasons to Never Eat Meat”, says the Daily Beast

“More Red Meat, More Mortality”, says the New York Times

“Red meat is blamed for one in 10 early deaths”, says the Telegraph

But is the scare warranted? As with many studies on health and nutrition there tends to be a disconnect between what a study actually shows and how it is interpreted by media outlets.

Here’s the real scoop

The study showed that every extra daily serving of unprocessed red meat (steak, hamburger, pork, etc.) increased the risk of dying prematurely by 13%.

Processed red meat (hot dogs, sausage, bacon, and the like) upped the risk by 20%. Sounds pretty alarming until you delve a little deeper.

Correlation vs Causation

Epidemiological studies are not randomized controlled trials and hence do not control for other lifestyle factors. One of the papers this study pooled from was the Health Professional s Follow-up Study, which showed that red meat eaters were also more likely to;

  1. Be less active
  2. Smoke more
  3. Drink more
  4. Consume more calories

As you can see it may not be the red meat but rather the HABITS of red meat eaters that poses the increased risk of premature death.

Take Home Points

  • Don’t jump! When looking at studies, be sure they control for other lifestyle factors before drawing conclusions.
  • Red meat contains a plethora of vitamins, minerals and is a fantastic source of protein
  • Eating red meat in moderation hasn’t been shown to cause premature death (up to 3oz per day) – as per this Japanese study.
  • When eating red meat, aim for minimally-processed sources and preferably grass-fed sources.
  • Vary your protein sources to include poultry, fish and non-meat sources of protein

Most importantly, eat healthily most of the time, exercise daily and enjoy life!

Filed in Meat,

8 Comments

  1. Jeff

    I love grass fed beef, it just tastes different than the stuff in the regular meat section. I think that the conventional wisdom of eating high carb and low fat food is not helping us at all. Eating so many carbs just makes us want to eat more!! I personally eat about 125-150g of carbs a day and I have seen dramatic results! My diet is not the most conventional but I am losing a ton of weight eating the foods I love!!

    Reply
  2. GiGi Eats Celebrities

    GRASS-FED meat!! Yum! And very healthy!

    Reply
  3. Dr. Sunita Banerji

    We in India do not shirk from eating lots of red meat – Grassfed Goat Meat for that matter. This meat is lean, tasty and has all the benefits that red meat imparts without any of the negative fallouts.

    Reply
  4. Arnold juegos de vestir

    mmmm i wanna eat a hamburguer… reading this post

    Reply
  5. Benjamin Raucher

    I will pass on red meat- thanks. Cancer rates in the US are real high. Why do Chinese women suffer breast cancer at less rates than in the West. Some studies suspect it is diet. It is my understanding as well that stomach cancer is higher where lots of pickled food is eaten. Anyway diet as we all know is really linked to health

    BENJAMIN RAUCHER

    Reply
  6. Linda

    I’ve reduced my red meat consumption quite a bit over the past year. I’ll never stop eating it; love a good steak or burger now and then. I used to eat deli meat almost every day for lunch, and I cringe when I think of what’s in it. That’s one section of the grocery store I completely avoid.

    Reply
  7. Spectra

    I do think that correlation is a huge factor in the studies done on red meat consumption. If you eat a small amount of grass-fed beef every week, I’m sure you’ll be fine. Also, the nitrate-loaded meat products are a lot worse for you in general–many of them have a lot of fat, salt, and other preservatives in them as well.

    Reply
  8. Jim

    And alongside this came a recent study showing how a lack of red meat was linked to increased depression in women. All very confusing, but the take home points are right: moderation and aim to eat healthily most of the time and stop worrying about food!

    Reply