Red meat is not a health hazard. New study criticizes poor research
Studies have linked red meat consumption to health problems such as: heart disease, stroke and cancer over the years. But in the corners of those published works are significant limitations.
Almost all research is observational, unable to conclusively reveal causality. Most of them are plagued by confounding variables. For example, maybe meat eaters simply eat fewer vegetables or tend to smoke more or exercise less? Moreover, many are based on self-reported spending. The simple fact is that people cannot remember what they eat with any accuracy. Finally, the reported effect sizes in these scientific papers are often small. Is the alleged 15% higher risk of cancer really worth worrying about?
A study against lazy research
in the new an unprecedented effort, scientists at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) scrutinized decades of research on red meat consumption and its links to various health outcomes, formulating a new rating system for communicating health risks in the process. Their findings largely dismiss any concerns eats red meat.
“We found weak evidence of an association between consumption of unprocessed red meat and colorectal cancer, breast cancer, type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease. Furthermore, we found no evidence of an association between unprocessed red meat and ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke. concisely.
IHME scientists have observed the poor nature of health science for decades. Hundreds of frankly lazy studies are published every year that simply try to find an observational link between some action – eating food, for example – and a health outcome, such as death or disease. In the end, due to sloppy methods, different subject populations, and inconsistent statistical measures, everything, especially different foods, looks like connected and is not associated with cancer. How should the lay public interpret this confusion?
A new system for determining risk
And so the researchers came up with burden of proof risk function, a new statistical method for quantitatively “assessing and summarizing evidence of risk across different risk-outcome pairs”. Using the function, any researcher can evaluate published data for a specific health risk and then, using the function, calculate a single number that translates into a one- to five-star rating system.
“A one-star rating indicates that there may not be a real association between the behavior or condition and the health outcome. Two stars indicate that the behavior or condition is at least associated with a 0-15% change in the probability of the health outcome, while three stars indicate a change of at least 15-50%, four stars indicate a change of at least 50-85%. , and five stars indicate a change of more than 85%.”
When the IHME used this feature to look at red meat consumption and its potential links to various adverse health outcomes, they found that none warranted a rating higher than two stars.
“The evidence for a direct vascular or health risk from regular meat eating is very small, to the point that there is probably no risk,” Dr. commented. Steven Novella, a Yale neurologist and president of the New England Society of Skeptics. “There is, however, more evidence of a health risk if you eat too few vegetables. That’s really the risk of a diet rich in meat, those meat calories crowd out vegetables calories.”
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The IHME team plans to use its burden of proof function for all types of health risks, creating massive, freely available database.
“In addition to helping consumers, our analysis can guide policymakers in developing health and wellness education programs so that they focus on the risk factors with the greatest impact on health,” Emmanuela Gakidou, Ph.D., Professor of Health Metrics at IHME and said is the lead author of the study in a statement. “Health researchers can also use this analysis to identify areas where current evidence is weak and more definitive studies are needed.”
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