Red and Processed Meat: What You Need to Know

This study's conclusions may surprise you.

Red and Processed Meat: What You Need to Know

Just when you thought you had made a sound decision to cut back on red and processed meat, scientists have turned the table on you. New claims from a comprehensive study indicate that one can safely eat red and processed meats several times a week with no health issues.

The claims, which fly in the face of traditional medical wisdom, were made by the Spanish and Polish Cochrane Centers, who play a crucial role in assessing medical research.

To be sure, numerous health organizations have pointed people in the opposite direction. For years, conventional wisdom states we should limit our intake of red and processed meat because of their high amount of saturated fat. Further, such meats would increase cholesterol levels and increase one’s risk of a heart attack. And oh, yes—don’t forget several recent studies indicating both red and processed meat increase your chance of several forms of cancer.

In the most recent study, researchers came to a different conclusion based on randomized, double-blind experiments. In one group, subjects were told to limit their consumption of red and processed meat. The other group was instructed to integrate red and processed meat into their weekly diets.

At the end of the study, the health of both groups was evaluated. As you may have already guessed, both groups had similar health as when they started the investigation. In short, the group heavy in red and processed meats was just as healthy as the group who cut back on these types of meat.

These types of studies are rare because they are expensive and hard to draw conclusive results. According to a recent estimate, only 5% of nutrition studies are large, good quality and randomized trials. Instead, it often makes financial sense to observe people without direction. These types of studies are known as observational studies and are notorious for being open to research bias, resulting in misleading results.

Recently, a study of observational research studies by Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada revealed a “very small” indication that regular consumption of red and processed meat resulted in health risks like cancer, heart disease, and death.

But then they took their study one step further. They aggregated the results of 12 authoritative studies and found there was little or no benefit for people who have cut red continue restricting their diets out of environmental and animal welfare concerns.

In the end, the studies should be taken with a grain of salt (literally). No one is suggesting that one should begin eating red and processed meat every day. Both studies found that eating red and processed meat three times weekly resulted in no increased health risk.

What do you think?

fact or fiction
Michael J. Albee
Michael J. Albee
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