The health impacts of eating red meat continues to be debated in the scientific community. Doctors recommend moderate consumption of red meat.
In three reviews, the group looked at studies to explore whether red or processed meat increased the risk of cardiovascular disease or cancer. The group reviewed 61 articles reporting on 55 populations, with more than 4 million participants. The researchers also looked at randomized trials linking red meat to cancer and heart disease, as well as 73 articles that examined links between red meat and cancer incidence and mortality. In each study, the scientists concluded that the links between eating red meat and disease and death were small, and the quality of the evidence was low to very low.
Many scientists also questioned the basis for the longstanding dietary guidelines urging people to eat less red meat. “The guidelines are based on papers that presumably say there is evidence for what they say, and there isn’t,” said Dr. Dennis Bier, director of the Children’s Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and past editor of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
David Allison, dean of the Indiana University School of Public Health—Bloomington, cited “a difference between a decision to act and making a scientific conclusion.”
The American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and other groups have fiercely criticized the study. “This new red meat and processed meat recommendation was based on flawed methodology and a misinterpretation of nutritional evidence,” says Dr. Frank Hu, chair of the Department of Nutrition. “The authors used a method often applied to randomized clinical trials for drugs and devices, which is typically not feasible in nutritional studies.”
Organizations like the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, the World Health Organization, or the World Cancer Research Fund International recommend eating meat in “moderation,” based on many studies that have found heavy meat consumption to be associated with premature death, various cancers, heart disease, and diabetes.