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The Latest Study on Red Meat and Heart Disease: A Red Herring

anonimo37

I wonder how many of these studies become self-fulfilling prophecies. Imagine the following scenario. A study claiming red meat is harmful is widely reported in the mainstream media. After reading about this study, health conscious people cut back on red meat while people who don't look after their health continue to eat the same quantity red meat. As a result of these changes, studies conducted years later find a stronger correlation between red meat and unhealthy people.

mypastself

I’m having trouble locating it at the moment, but an article was shared here a few months ago that suggested something similar happened with health and dietary fat, back when it was still considered harmful. The correlation gradually disappeared after enough studies debunked the causality hypothesis.

copperx

Debunked the causality hypothesis meaning that probably saturated fat intake, after going down on average, no longer correlates with coronary disease? Could you ELI5 that? I'm not familiar with the research or the claims.

mypastself

Debunking the idea that fat intake causes high cholesterol and other health issues. There seemed to be some correlation, but causality was spurious.

123409871234

The author of this post is not a scientist, but rather a journalist with no scientific credentials, who has a long history of being a promoter and propagandist for the meat industry:

"Meat lobby peddles doubt to undermine dietary guidelines

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, updated every five years, never fails to cause a stir. For the current revision, released in February, a federally appointed scientific committee — after a two-year review of the latest research and numerous public hearings — has recommended (PDF) lowering consumption of red meat and processed meat.

Despite being fairly tepid, this advice set off a media firestorm, driven by a defensive meat industry and others who have been muddying the waters for some time on the role of meat in the diet. The meat lobby is taking full advantage of the current “debate.”

Adding to the confusion is Nina Teicholz, the best-selling author of “The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet,” whose recent attempts to discredit the committee’s recommendations on meat have been published in The New York Times, alongside meat industry trade publications such as Beef Magazine and Cattle Network."

http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2015/5/meat-lobby-pedd...

origin_path

The field of nutrition is self-undermining given how frequently it's inverted its advice, and the prevalence of pseudo-scientific studies.

As COVID has shown, "scientists" are incredibly powerful in our society to the extent that they can shut down civilization overnight, force billions of people to take experimental substances, repeatedly lie to both population and politicians in order to generate compliance with no consequences, eliminate all criticism of themselves anywhere except individual blogs and all this with no accountability mechanisms whatsoever.

So, good for Nina? We need journalists investigating and undermining pseudo-scientists, just as it's widely recognized that a healthy democracy needs journalists to investigate and undermine corrupt/lying politicians.

JeremyNT

We've reached the point where, if "substack" is in the URL and it's not a person who I am already familiar with, I ignore it completely. Maybe these bloggers are right, maybe they're not, but I don't have enough cycles to actually vet them all myself.

Nutrition research is complicated, but the odds of a nutrition blogger on substack unlocking some "secret" that won't eventually make it into more mainstream science publications seems relatively low to me.

jononomo

Not only is Nina Teicholz a well-established journalist, but she is the author of this book, which made a huge splash and has 2,000+ Amazon Reviews: https://www.amazon.com/Big-Fat-Surprise-Butter-Healthy/dp/14...

jononomo

Oh, wow -- I love Nina Teicholz! I came across this talk by her a few years ago and it made a massive impression on me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2UnOryQiIY&t=29s

OrvalWintermute

I have often wondered:

A - Are meats unhealthy, or, is it the food fed (grains on a foodlot) to the animal that negatively influences the health profile? [1]

B - If meats are so unhealthy, why are the bushmen superfit and incredibly healthy into old age despite having a significant amount of meat ~25% in their diet? [2] & [3]

I recognize that some animals raised on healthy grass-fed diets may have health profiles more similar to healthy fish than conventional grain fed red meat [4] & [5]

[1] https://chriskresser.com/why-grass-fed-trumps-grain-fed-and-...

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KWUlrTJoE70

[3] https://www.exploring-africa.com/en/botswana/san-or-bushmen/...

[4] https://www.fda.gov/food/metals-and-your-food/mercury-levels...

[5] https://blog.dana-farber.org/insight/2016/02/are-grass-fed-b...

WA

10% reach 60. No numbers above that. They are healthy while alive, but don’t live longer than people from developed nations.

Look, the discussions around bad health effects of meat consumption all resolve around heart disease and cancer. The numbers are pretty irrelevant for people below 60 or so. We are essentially optimizing lifespan and are wondering what causes diseases in old age, like 70+.

It makes zero sense to look at bushmen or ask the paleo fairy, because most of them die earlier than most people in developed nations.

If we talk about health and well-being, yes, the average bushman alive is probably healthier than the average 60 year old westerner, because the sick people died in the bush but not here and because they move around a lot more. It is literally comparing the fittest 10% against a society that includes also the sick-but-still-alive.

moffkalast

> the paleo fairy, because most of them die earlier than most people in developed nations

I require a source on the average timespan of paleo fairies.

copperx

By timespan do you mean the time that they remain in a Paleo diet? Or did you mean lifespan?

tomp

> They are healthy while alive

If that's true, it would imply that they don't die of ill health (disease) but of accidents (eaten by lion) or incredibly curable stuff (e.g. bacterial infection).

So their lifestyle is definitely something to mimick / learn from, as we can easily prevent the healthy person dying causes of death in the first world.

notahacker

Or it implies that people with debilitating conditions don't survive for very long because the Bushman lifestyle is much worse for them in a wide variety of ways, so don't get factored into assessments of the surviving population's general health.

More generally, the fact that a specific group of people who live outdoors and forage and hunt for food are generally in quite good physical shape is probably a better indicator that exercise is good for the physique (and lots of food and a sedentary lifestyle bad for it), than an indication we should go to the supermarket and buy more red meat in proportion to the amount they consume it. Older people can be wiry and surprisingly agile in vegetarian communities where there's [just] enough food and their traditional lifestyle entails walking around everywhere too, but that doesn't mean vegetarianism is a solution to first world dietary problems either. I'd be cautious about conflating agile with free from discomforting ailments too.

watwut

No, that would imply they die of illness more quickly and sooner as well as of accidents. It does not have to be incredibly curable, all it needs if for better Healthcare making some difference.

oarabbus_

> as we can easily prevent the healthy person dying causes of death in the first world.

Citation needed. Accidental deaths from motor vehicle injuries plus other factors are disturbingly common in the first world.

onlyrealcuzzo

> Are meats unhealthy, or, is it the food fed (grains on a foodlot) to the animal that negatively influences the health profile?

I think there's a difference between healthy food, okay food, and unhealthy food.

Something ultra processed, high in sugar, and low in other macro and micro nutrients is probably unhealthy.

I think "red meat" is unlikely to be very unhealthy - in the same way a Twinky is. But maybe pepperoni sticks aren't too far behind...

I'm not sure why so many people are convinced that red meat - in most of its forms - is one of the best foods you can possibly eat.

There's a mountain of evidence that a lot of vegetables are really good for you. There's not much counter evidence that they're really bad for you. On the flip side, there's not a lot of evidence that red meat is super healthy. And there is a decent amount of evidence that it isn't.

seibelj

The human body is poor at processing cellulose. You need a lot of plants to equal the nutrients from meat. You can do it, but a cheeseburger, a multivitamin, adequate sun, and good exercise is also a healthy lifestyle.

shlant

it seems weird that you would talk about supposed shortfalls of plant nutrition and then in the next sentence talk about cheeseburgers (who considers these healthy?) and multivitamins (which are not considered a substitute for proper nutrition[1][2])

1. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-preventi...

2. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/do-multivitamins-work

onlyrealcuzzo

There's a lot of evidence that multivitamins don't actually do much: https://www.health.harvard.edu/mens-health/do-multivitamins-...

copperx

There was some research that claimed that the increase of lifespan gained by eating vegetables was negated by the increased intake of pesticides. In fact, it suggested a net negative.

ZeroGravitas

Regarding your point B, the current US government guidelines that the current article rails against as not being scientific enough actually say:

> The core recommendations of the Guidelines state that a healthy diet for all Americans should include vegetables, fruits, grains (half of which should be whole grains), low or non-fat dairy, and a variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), and nuts, seeds, and soy products. Further, Americans are told to keep saturated fat content below 10% of calories (why the DGA recommends lean meat and low or non-fat dairy), added sugars below 10% of calories, and salt below 2300mg per day.

So they don't seem particularly out of line with the diet of your bushmen:

> The Bushmen are hunter-gatherers, 75% of their diet consists of vegetable, including berries, walnuts, roots and melons, that are mainly harvested by women; while the remaining 25% is made up of meat that is hunted by men who hunt, using poisoned arrows and spears.

(It's not clear how those percentages are measured, volume, weight, calories?)

And the general advice around the world is "eat less red meat, especially processed meat" which seems remarkably tame compared with the anti-meat jihad that some people seem to think is occuring.

e.g. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/food-types/meat-nutrit...

> Meat is a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals in your diet. However, if you currently eat more than 90g (cooked weight) of red or processed meat a day, the Department of Health and Social Care advises that you cut down to 70g.

faddypaddy34

Low fat/non fat dairy is not healthy, nor is most low fat/non fat replacements because sugar is added to increase flavor.

wdkrnls

Sometimes that is true, sometimes not. However, I will say my recent experience has been that I have craved a lot more sugar from external sources (e.g. honey) when cutting out full fat yogurt from my diet even though I tried to supplement my diet with a lot more unsaturated fats to try and avoid this.

flenserboy

70g is almost no meat. And not nearly enough.

BirAdam

Comparing one small homogenous group of people to a very large heterogeneous group of people would require controlling for a rather large set of variables. I don’t see that working well. Additionally, when looking at individuals within a single family we find variances where a diet will work for one and not for another, this applies to workout regimens and the like as well.

I would say more study is needed across the board.

martingoodson

What evidence is there that bushmen have a long healthy life? Please don’t cite a YouTube video or blog as a reference.

sph

Find a bushman that lives a bushman life but has access to modern medicine facilities first, then we can ask that question.

Because this is exactly how bad dietary research is done. Comparing a bushman with a westerner and drawing conclusions that one diet is healthier than another.

vnorilo

Regarding B, I had the pleasure of meeting a handful of San [1] elders to record some of their songs. I learned that some of them walked ~10km to meet with the rest of us and did not think much of it. In general their lifestyle is probably a lot less sedentary than mine.

1: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_people

Gordonjcp

> conventional grain fed red meat

"Grain fed" is not conventional.

Ensorceled

"grain fed" IS conventional as in "in accordance with general practice; customary", it isn't conventional as in "traditional". Conventional is a poor word choice for this usage.

Buying grass raised beef is difficult or expensive in most of North America.

BirAdam

Expensive perhaps, but not that expensive. Difficult? It’s in every Kroger which is the largest grocer in the USA (afaicr), and it’s also in every Walmart. There’s a lot of beef and a lot of grass fed beef in the USA. If America simply stopped wasting so much food it would likely lower prices enough to make higher quality foods more affordable.

Gordonjcp

The world is bigger than North America.

the_omegist

Aren't most studies contradictory ? For one study claiming A you can find another claiming the opposite.

In the 80s/90s there was this constant fear about cholesterol and eggs (perhaps promoted by the cereals lobby?) : did people's habits change? If yes, it was probably because of the monopoly of TV as the main source of "information". Nowadays with internet, every one follows his own little bubble of information.

em500

Yup, according to studies, everything we eat both causes and prevents cancer[1].

AFAICT it's almost impossible to conduct convincing nutrition science. Even if the signs of the effect in observational studies are all in the same direction (usually they're not, see the reference), you still can't rule out many confounding effects. To demonstrate causality, you'd need to force a large number of people on specific diets for a long time in a proper randomized controlled trial, or show very specific bio-chemical reactions to particular food components, or (easier but still very hard) dream up some convincing "natural experiment" or "instrumental variable" to workaround the fact that people mostly choose their own diet.

[1] https://www.sciencealert.com/everything-we-eat-both-causes-a...

phpisthebest

I think most nutrition science can be boiled down to 4 rules that most people should follow, and ignore the rest

1. Avoid processed Foods, Learn to cook your own meals

2. Eat a variety of foods

3. Control your portions (especially carbs)

4. Drink more water

Everything else is mostly irrelevant to the normal person. Are eggs good or bad, is Red meat worse than Chicken, etc etc... Who Cares. Eat it all in moderation, while mixing in fruits and veggies all in proper portion

I think it was Food Theory Channel or somewhere that had a video on the amount of influence various industries have had over the "recommendation" by "nutrition science" experts and / or the government, the end result is most "nutrition science" is really marketing not science

copperx

I would not even follow these 4 recommendations without a ton of evidence. Yes, they "make sense" because that's what we've been taught since we were children, but are these behaviors good compared to doing nothing?

mrandish

Due to some fairly serious diet-related personal health issues (obesity and several related co-morbidities), 5 years ago I started closely following nutrition science. In this time, the clearest thing I've learned is that the vast majority of "Nutrition Science" is poor science - to the extent of hardly being science at all.

* If the data is based on diary data, it's noisy to the extent of being nearly useless and no causation can be implied.

* Doing rigorous controlled studies on humans is very difficult and astronomically expensive. Even then, it's incredibly easy for significant confounds and errors to slip in.

* With nutrition studies in general, animal models are usually weak proxies for humans. A large number of significant nutrition results in animals fail to replicate in humans.

* Humans metabolic responses to nutrition are highly variable and contingent on everything from genetic make-up and ethnicity to behavior and environment, etc. So, even in the rare cases statistical causation is demonstrated, it probably still depends on other variables.

* There is a high degree of bias in nutrition science. This includes many funding sources having vested interests from commercial (food lobbies (meat, wheat, milk, etc)) and many researchers having ideological biases (anti-meat vegetarians, anti-meat climate concerns, anti-meat animal welfare, etc)

* Accepting any result as significant requires skeptically examining the methods, statistics and history of the authors and funders.

copperx

I agree. And al of that leads to information fatigue. After reading many studies, I'm even worried about "common sense" nutrition knowledge, for example:

* I'm worried about increasing my fruit and vegetable intake, because that will raise my pesticide burden. It is not clear whether the benefits of fruits and vegetables make up for the increased probability of cancer of pesticide consumption. Organic produce is not a solution, as the pesticide burden is even higher.

* Increasing fish consumption of even "healthy" dishes will increase heavy metal consumption. Is it worth it?

* Taking Omega 3 supplements greatly increases the risk of prostate cancer. Is it really worth it?

You can't rely on anything to make dietary decisions for longevity. The best one can aim for is dietary advice to maintain a healthy weight. That, at least, can be quickly proven empirically.

AlbertCory

There was a study on "gluten intolerance" (which unfortunately I deleted) where they did in fact control people's diets in a double-blind way, and check the validity of their symptoms.

Maybe someone can find it, but even with all that rigor, it was somewhat inconclusive.

oifjsidjf

>> Mozaffarian discloses in the ATVB paper that he receives funding from Barilla, the world’s largest pasta company—which clearly stands to benefit if meat is sidelined off the dinner plate. (Barilla has invested heavily in nutrition researchers and in promoting the idea that meat as bad for the climate).

Follow the money.

ZeroGravitas

Big Pasta are in on the climate change hoax too? You cant trust anyone.

I was going to quote this exact section, as I felt it was one of the few areas where they let their "we just want real science" mask slip and revealed their consistent "pro-meat" stance.

charlieflowers

> Big Pasta are in on the climate change hoax too? You cant trust anyone

Not just “big”. Those Angel hair bastards are in on it too.

denton-scratch

What's this got to do with climate change? I thought it was about diet and CVD.

ZeroGravitas

The blog is a front for the meat industry. They try to stick to the areas where they can have vaguely plausible deniability that they're not just attacking everything that would impact meat sales and agriculture subsidies, with the cover that they're "wanting to look at the evidence". But the comment I replied to quotes them having a swipe at a challenge to meat from a non-nutrition angle, which tips their hand a little.

The whole, "we just want the science to be certain" thing is a popular tactic, see for example the Heartland Institute's attempt to have a "Red Team" of scientists pick holes in climate science:

https://climateinvestigations.org/heartland-institute-climat...

Wouldn't surprise me if you could trace this group back to them too.

Ha, didn't think it would be that easy:

https://www.heartland.org/news-opinion/news/follow-the-scien...

For those that prefer Youtube videos:

Is Nina Teicholz right about saturated fat or is she a lobbyist for the meat industry?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VK5ApjZdPEo

lots of links in the description too.

julkali

This may be only tangentially relevant, but the author is known to be a pro-meat lobbyist (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nina_Teicholz).

pessimizer

Could you pull the quote out that says she's a lobbyist? I can't find it, and without it I can't figure out if you're misusing lobbyist to mean "is known to have had this opinion before."

eduction

Strong agree. “Lobbyist” has a precise legal meaning and they are required to register with the House and Senate if they are a federal lobbyist and each state has its own registration process if they are lobbyists at that level. It does not appear this person is a lobbyist. Holding an opinion is not enough to make you a lobbyist, nor is expressing that opinion in a published work.

amusedcyclist

We're not in court. If someone clearly has an agenda then calling them a lobbyist is just fine

julkali

Definition of lobbying per Wikipedia[0]:

> the act of lawfully attempting to influence the actions, policies, or decisions of government officials, most often legislators or members of regulatory agencies.

A one minute Google search revealed a quote from this politico article[1]:

> She [Nina Teicholz] is also an organizer of a fledgling group that is engaged in a vigorous advocacy campaign to reshape how the U.S. government determines what makes a healthy diet.

I recognize my initial quote didn't validate my claim, but it is nevertheless correct. And it may be true that _professional_ lobbyist need to be registered in the USA, but the term can also (perhaps only in other regions of the world) refer to any person lobbying.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lobbying [1]: https://www.politico.com/story/2015/10/the-money-behind-the-...

amusedcyclist

"She was also criticized for being an ally of the meat and dairy industry. ". She's not a scientist (did an "American Studies" degree in college,) just a dirtbag who makes her money shilling for a murderous industry

noSyncCloud

What on earth is an "American Studies" degree?

Tagbert

would you announce the same warning if they were an anti-meat advocate? I see a lot of bad science and even worse popularization of studies on the vegan and anti-meat crowd.

amusedcyclist

"Only tangentially relevant"

Metacelsus

About TMAO: this is produced when intestinal bacteria consume choline. They release trimethylamine as a byproduct, which is then oxidized in the liver to TMAO. If the liver enzymes are mutated you wind up with "fish malodor syndrome" due to smelling like trimethylamine.

Anyway, any food high in choline will elevate TMAO.

As an undergrad I was briefly involved in an effort to develop an inhibitor of the bacterial enzymes that degrade choline.

pfdietz

"If TMAO is their answer, however, they should really be warning against fish, not meat. Cod yields 65+ times more TMAO than beef, and halibut, at least 100 times more, according to a 1999 study that examined the effects of 46 foods on TMAO excreted in human urine. Carrots, cauliflower, peas, peanuts and potatoes also lead to far more TMAO than beef."

mark_l_watson

I agree, be careful what kind of fish you consume. I really like sardines (tasty!) and they have much less heavy metals, etc. than larger fish that are higher up the food chain.

copperx

Fish should come with CoAs. No ifs or buts about it.

erokar

It's far from one study that has found a link between red meat and heart disease.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/?term=meat+heart+disease

Macha

It's possible for a paper to concur with the majority (or even objectively correct) consensus and still have issues with it's methodology.

Imagine a paper that proved 2+2=4 by surveying preschoolers and going with the majority vote. Correct conclusion, questionable methodology.

erokar

For sure. Conflicts of interest are too common in nutrition research, and I think the criticism of this particular paper is laudable.

I simply wanted to point out that there is significant indications from other studies that red meat, and in particular processed red meat, is correlated with heart disease (and cancer).

azalemeth

Indeed. The original article comes across as really quite biased too. Longitudinal cohort studies can never nail causality but they are quite good at providing measures of apparent risk.

In cardiology, an odds ratio of about 1.2, called tiny by the article, can actually be considered quite large in some circumstances. Very roughly speaking, it's about equivalent to your risk per ten years of age of developing heart failure, or per 20 mmHg of systolic blood pressure [1].

[1] https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10557-022-07355-7

radford-neal

The point isn't that an odds ratio of 1.2 is too small to be important. It is that if the estimated odds ratio from the study, with all its biases, is 1.2, then one can't be at all sure that the actual odds ratio is even greater than 1. (An odds ratio less than 1 would indicate that red meat was protective, rather than a risk factor.)

jononomo

I ate no plant-based calories at all for the entirety of 2021 and I ended the year in fantastic shape. Then I relaxed my rule in 2022 and now I'm 20 pounds heavier and don't feel quite as good physically. So I'm just going to resume the strict version of my diet, which seems to work so well for me: 90% beef, 10% eggs and fish -- with no fiber or plant-based calories of any kind.

dataangel

It's difficult for me to take this blogger seriously when they want to give red meat credit for containing heme iron, which is suspected to be a cause for worse health outcomes.

copperx

Yeah, you don't want heme iron if you're an adult, especially if you're male.

At least multivitamin manufacturers get that right (that surprises me). No adult multivitamin contains iron.

mark_l_watson

Even though I try to make almost all of my meals vegan, I eat two small portions (3 ounces) of non-feed lot organically raised beef a month. I have no scientific basis for my opinion but I think a small amount of beef is good for me. My other occasional meat source is quality sardines, usually sourced from Norway or Spain. Sardines: the “you either love them or hate them” food :-)