‘Controversial’ red meat recommendations labelled misleading

As more people turn to eating less meat, new and “controversial” research gives you reason to return to red meat.

While the vegan trend has taken off, a series of reviews has found there are very few health benefits to cutting your meat consumption.

Based on a series of five high-quality systematic reviews of the relationship between meat consumption and health, a panel of experts recommends that most people can continue to eat red and processed meat at their average current consumption levels.

It’s estimated adults in North America and Europe eat red and processed meat about three to four times a week.

The international researchers’ guidelines contradict almost all other guidelines that exist.

They studied 12 trials with 54,000 people and found no statistically significant or important association between meat consumption and the risk of heart disease, diabetes or cancer.

Researchers also looked at people’s attitudes towards meat and found that people ate it because they liked it or perceived it as healthy and would be reluctant to change their habits. They didn’t take into account ethical or environmental reasons.

In an accompanying editorial to their article published in Annals of Internal Medicine, the authors noted their recommendations were bound to be controversial, but said they were based on the most comprehensive reviews of the evidence to date.

“For some time, medical and science organisations have been beating the drum that red and processed meat are bad for you,” they wrote.

“We have saturated the market with warnings about the dangers of red meat.

“It would be hard to find someone who doesn’t ‘know’ that experts think we should all eat less.

“Continuing to broadcast that fact, with more and more shaky studies touting potential small relative risks, is not changing anyone’s mind.”

Jim Mann, Professor of Medicine and Human Nutrition at the University of Otago, said

the recommendations were potentially unhelpful and could be misleading.

“The panel opted to consider personal preferences along with cancer and cardiovascular outcomes but not to take into account environmental and animal welfare issues when making their recommendations,” he said.

“In my opinion it is irresponsible not to consider sustainability and planetary health -a key, if not the major, determinant of the health of future generations - when developing nutrient and food-based dietary guidelines.”

Professor Clare Collins, director of Research in the School of Health Sciences at The University of Newcastle, said it would be impossible and unethical to put people on a test diet for 10 or 20 years to see what diseases they got and what they died from.

“The authors have not presented evidence that national dietary guidelines need updating,” she said.

“Poor eating habits are the leading cause of death worldwide. This report will confuse the public.

“In current data shows that the burden of disease would drop by 62 per cent for heart disease, 41 per cent for type 2 diabetes, 34 per cent for stroke, and 22 per cent for bowel cancer if all people ate like the dietary guidelines recommend. People need more support to adopt the healthiest eating patterns they can.”

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