Annals of Internal Medicine Reveals Red Meat Studies’ Ties to Meat Industry
A recent correction by a major scientific journal, The Annals of Internal Medicine, spotlighted unreported funding by the meat industry. Lead author and NutriRECS funder, Bradley C, Johnson neglected to, “indicate a grant from Texas A&M AgriLife Research to fund investigator-driven research related to saturated and polyunsaturated fats,” says the journal.
While this correction may shed light on the author’s assertion that red and processed meat is not harmful to human health, it is yet another assault on public trust in nutrition science—which perhaps was the authors’ goal all along.
We have a great many studies, published in peer-reviewed medical journals, that have found clear and compelling associations between red meat and early death. One of the largest, involving more than 500,000 people, was published in The British Medical Journal on May 9, 2017. In this enormous study, researchers found that consumption of red meat, both processed and unprocessed, was associated with increased risk of death from every one of the specific causes of death they looked at — including cancer, heart disease, stroke and other cerebrovascular diseases, respiratory disease, diabetes, infections, kidney disease, and chronic liver disease. We have an overwhelming body of science telling us that by eating less red meat, people will live longer and healthier lives. What we don’t need are sensationalized headlines that misrepresent the science, and direct people toward eating foods that will clog their arteries, lead to illness and early death, and also damage the health of the planet."
John Robbins2 million copy bestselling author and co-founder of Food Revolution Network
The recommendation that adults continue current red and processed meat consumption is based on a skewed reading and presentation of the scientific evidence... even with this skewed way of presenting the evidence, the reviews clearly indicate the benefits of reducing red and processed meat consumption.
Marco SpringmannOxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food
Unfortunately, the leadership of the paper chose to play up the low certainty of evidence by GRADE, as opposed to the protective associations that directly support current recommendations to lower meat intake.
John SievenpiperMD PhD: (co-author on one of the meta-analyses who strongly disagreed with the conclusions and recommendations from the panel.)
The vast majority of headlines flitting through newsfeeds do not reflect key study details: most showed a small and significant effect of red and processed meat on various health outcomes, for example. They also lack context: a number of results are consistent with the larger body of evidence showing increased risks of various diseases among those consuming a diet with higher meat intakes.
P.K. NewbyScD, MS Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Having seen what a powerful difference a whole foods plant-based diet low in fat and refined carbohydrates can make in people’s lives, these articles deeply sadden me because they will discourage many people from making changes that can transform their lives for the better.
While modest reductions in beef may not have had hugely beneficial health effects, eliminating beef and most other animal products can reverse the progression of many chronic diseases.
These Annals reports will confuse millions of people into believing that “these damn doctors can’t make up their minds,” countering decades of consistent research showing that a meat-based diet is unhealthful and undermining the public’s confidence in scientific research
Dean Ornishauthor of "Undo It"
The papers come across to me as a concerted attack on dietary guidelines (national and international), on nutrition science in general, and on nutritional epidemiology in particular. The meat industry and its supporters will love them. Attacks on the quality of nutrition research have been coming from many sources lately: the food industry, of course, but also statisticians (John Ioannidis at Stanford is making a career of this), and some scientists (usually with ties to food companies). The criticisms themselves are not new.What is new is the vehemence and level of effort to discredit observational studies, particularly those based on self-reports of dietary intake.
Marion Nestleauthor "Food Politics"
The panel’s blanket recommendation that adults should continue their red meat consumption habits is highly irresponsible. We are facing a growing epidemic of diet-related chronic diseases and a climate change crisis, both of which are linked to high meat consumption. Red meat consumption remains high in economically developed countries and is markedly increasing worldwide. In this context, it is unprecedented and unconscionable for a self-appointed panel to issue dietary guidelines that are tantamount to promoting meat consumption, despite their own findings that high consumption is harmful to health.
Frank HuChair of the Department of Nutrition, Harvard T.H. School of Public Health
The fact that the world health organization has found convincing evidence that processed meat causes cancer in humans, and that red meat is a probable human carcinogen, was not disputed in these new “guidelines.” Rather, the “guidelines” encourage people to continue their exposure to these dangerous products simply because their technically weak meta-analysis methodology was unable to detect sufficient evidence of benefit of avoiding these products that outweighed the study authors’ estimation of how much people like continuing to eat bacon, hotdogs, sausage, and burgers.
Neal D BarnardMD, FACC
The author conclusions in no way support the bold claim made in this release. The authors effectively say: "these papers show that when diet quality, dietary pattern, and what is replacing meat is systematically ignored because we don't have those data- then very small variations in meat and processed meat intake (we mostly were unable to say which) are apparently associated with small differences in health outcomes- in the expected direction, but with extreme lack of certainty because of the data problems noted above. None of these papers report on 'good health.' They all compare rates of mortality, cardiometabolic disease, and cancer. "No Change" in such outcomes does not mean good health; it means there's more than one way to get the same, bad health.
David L. Katz MD, MPH, President of True Health Initiative
We should note that these are primarily health researchers conducting these reviews and they are using terms to assess bias and certainty as if they are systematically reviewing pharma drug trials to determine the effect of a synthetic compound in pill form. The method does not translate to data on dietary patterns.
Eric Rimm ScD
The approach the authors have taken is: You study cohorts that you class as low GRADE ( Guyatt). You get results
You say the studies are low GRADE and therefore of no consequence.
Then you come to your own irresponsible conclusions ( climate change??)
You feel justified in doing so on the basis of GRADE (despite your all cause mortality cvd, diabetes and cancer findings- a full house of evidence against meat!
Yes, there seems to be a new diet competing with an old diet, in every news cycle.
No, scientists are not confused, confounded, or at war. Let’s take a moment to talk about a very boring topic (sorry, science) methodology.
Modernize the Definition of Protein Quality
We call upon the Commissioner of the FDA and the US Secretary of Agriculture to commission a working group of the National Academy of Medicine to modernize the formal definition of protein quality to one that better serves both public, and planetary health.
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Livestock production needs to reach its peak within the next decade in order to tackle the climate emergency, scientists have warned.
They are calling for governments in all but the poorest countries to set a date for “peak meat” because animal agriculture is a significant and fast-growing source of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Cattle and sheep emit large amounts of methane while forests are destroyed to create pasture and grow the grains that are fed to intensively reared animals.
The world’s scientists agree that huge amounts of carbon dioxide will have to be removed from the atmosphere to limit global heating to 1.5C. More than 80% of farmland is used for livestock but it produces just 18% of food calories.
Reducing meat and dairy, and eating plant-based diets instead, would free up land to be returned to natural forest. Researchers say that is the best option currently available for storing large amounts of carbon.
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