The mainstream media was all a buzz this month about an article published in the Archives of Internal Medicine journal that stated that red meat consumption was linked to an increased rate of total, cancer, and cardiovascular mortality. That makes for a good attention grabbing headline but as often with stories hyped in the media making bold claims, it is important to dig a little deeper and really see what the science and data really tells us. Zoë Harcombe did a very good job of breaking down this observational study. My take is that there are too many compounding variables to make any claims of causation from this study. It is near impossible to control for the extent of these variables. For example, there is a higher rate of smoking in those that ate red meat, so does red meat cause lung cancer? Maybe but an observational study could never prove causation, only correlation. In Harcombe’s seven points about this study she also cites the same issue:
“Several other critical variables showed correlation with death rates – lack of activity, low cholesterol, BMI, smoking, diabetes, calorie intake and alcohol intake. These have not been excluded to isolate meat consumption alone. The raw data actually shows deaths rates falling with increased meat consumption up to the third or fourth quintile – and this is before all the other variables have been allowed for. This would suggest that meat consumption has a protective effect while weight, alcohol, calorie intake, lack of exercise and so on are all taking their toll.”
My suggestion would be to eat red meat (ideally organic grass-fed) if you feel better eating red meat. If you don’t, don’t eat it. Just make sure that as an athlete you are getting in enough protein and iron in your diet to prevent anemia.
Here is another good article on this same study, but also on the limitations of most epidemiological studies done in nutrition.
So do you think it is the Chocolate that is making people thinner or some other connected behavior? I would really like to believe that chocolate would somehow melt the fat away but I am not going to go out and buy a Hershey bar based on this. I am going to continue to eat dark chocolate every once in a while because it is delicious!