RED MEAT INCREASES THE RISK OF DYING
Did that get your attention? If it did, you’re not alone. That was a headline from a leading publication in 2017. Panic. Terror. Cows breathe a sigh of relief. Is the headline true? It must be. The study says so. Not so fast. I’m sure you’ve seen headlines with the phrases, “increase risk of,” or “linked to.” Usually, those are from “observational studies.” Those studies have a place in the world of science, but how? Quick, read further and save the ribeyes!
Observational studies are larger, span more time and the press love them. They trigger an emotional response and can change your eating habits in a second. What’s their purpose? In science, an observational study is to do exactly that. Observe. From those observations, they ask more specific questions. They test those questions (hypothesis) and test those in more rigid studies. Observational studies DO NOT confirm cause-and-effect. You wouldn’t know that by listening to the press.
From one “landmark” red meat study that looked at over 100,000 people across 20-plus years. They observed the following:
Individuals who ate more red meat were more likely to smoke, drink and be overweight. They were less likely to eat fruits, vegetables and exercise.
So, what does someone who doesn’t smoke or drink do? What if you do exercise and eat fruits and vegetables. What if your weight is control? The RCTs (those rigid, expensive, cause-and-effect studies) have answered this. You’re fine. One caveat is your meat selection (red or otherwise) is not processed.
Next time you see a bombastic headline. Pause. Don’t overreact. If you’re skeptical, shoot us an email and we can investigate the claims. Science powers Stark, not sensationalism.