Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Chris Kresser » RHR: Does Red Meat Increase Your Risk of Death?
From this link, a podcast transcript:

there have been a lot of observational studies in the past that have claimed that red meat increases the risk of cancer, especially colon cancer, but this one went even further.  It claimed that red meat makes you die of everything, so it increases the risk of total mortality, which is death from all causes.  And they followed over 120,000 women from the Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study over 28 and 22 years, respectively, and the data was published by a research group out of Harvard, which for better or worse — I think worse in this case — gives it some kind of instant credibility.  You know, a lot of people when they hear Harvard, they think:  Oh, it must be true.  If it comes out of Harvard, it must be true.  And they found that a single serving of unprocessed red meat is associated with 13% increased risk of death from all causes, while a single serving of processed red meat, like bacon or hot dogs, increased total mortality by 20%.  And then they made the claim, though they didn’t even study this at all, so I have no idea how they can possibly make this claim, that replacing red meat with whole grains, nuts, and chicken would extend your lifespan.

Another good analysis of the "red meat is death" study published in March.   As I said, if you should choose not to eat red meat, that's OK by me!  I'll take yours ...


  1. 2003, following 'AP resection' surgery for a lower bowel tumor, I asked the surgical registrar what caused the cancer. His answer was "red meat". I took that on board. Further studies of the related literature available to me, tended to reinforce that, based on statistics of red meat consumption in Australia, New Zealand, UK, and other relatively heavy consumers of red meats. I am now 9 yrs and some colonoscopies, clear.

  2. Congratulations on your survival! That is always good news.

    You point out a couple things that are significant in considering what to do. One - appeals to authority; if your surgeon says something is true, is it? Two - what does your own post vegetarian health mean? And third - what about epidemiological studies?

    In my book, your surgeon's opinion is like the opinion of anyone else; only worth the value you assign to it. Heart surgeon Mehmet Oz, for example, demonstrates a shocking ignorance of what causes heart disease.

    Naturally, while it is good news that you are doing well, you might also be doing well if you ate a cow every week.

    Lastly, if you want to reconcile the red meat fear mongering, you have to explain why the Mormons are the world's healthiest population and have the highest meat consumption.

    All that aside, the Kresser article does a nice job of dismantling one poorly done study, but most others of its type are no better. Epidemiology is of limited use in determining dietary cause and effect.