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Great Red Meat Scare

By Marcus | In Nutrition | on March 15, 2012


Undoubtedly by now, you have either seen or have had someone forward to you the story of the latest story to tell you red meat is going to kill you. Aaron asked me to give my two cents, but several other luminaries in the Paleo realm have dissected the article far more comprehensively than I could hope to here.

When these panic-inducing studies come out, you owe it to yourself to put on your thinking cap. As I mentioned before, critical thinking is sadly becoming a lost skill. Many people trust what they read in the news blindly, yet errors can easily be made. This is further complicated by the blurring of lines between blogs and news sites. One glaring clue is whether or not the article cites sources. This doesn’t happen often on reputable sites, but it is a first warning sign.

Now just because someone cites a study, this shouldn’t be a free pass. Exercise due diligence and look into that study to see if it passes the sniff test. For example, this red meat study says that the basis of their data was culled from Food Frequency Questionnaires. That in and of itself isn’t sketchy, but when you consider that the data was collected every four years, it starts to become pretty suspect. Yes… that part gets glossed over, but these people were given questionnaires each four years and they were asked to estimate the amounts of various foods they ate. If I asked you what you ate for dinner last Tuesday, could you recall? How about if I asked you four years later? How far off do you think your guesstimate would be? Considering that this entire study was based on this data, it’s a shaky foundation in my opinion. No amount of massaging of the data via further statistical adjustments can make up for this.

Rather than rehash was has been said better elsewhere, here are links to some of the rebuttals I have come across:

Good: Red Meat: Part of a Healthy Diet? by Robb Wolf

Better: Red Meat Consumption and Mortality by Caveman Doctor

Best: Will Eating Red Meat Kill You? by Denise Minger (via Mark’s Daily Apple)

WOD 03.15.12

Skills Day


9 Comments to "Great Red Meat Scare"

  • Ray says:

    March 15, 2012 at 8:20 AM -

    Daaannnggg! That’s a pretty crazy pic.

  • Amanda says:

    March 15, 2012 at 8:44 AM -

    Awesome action shot!

    Marcus thanks for the summary of my undergrad – what a waste of four years. So true – you can get stats to tell any story you want. I love how you can wait for studies to come out saying something is bad for you, then studies will say that something is good for you… hmmm…

  • Scott says:

    March 15, 2012 at 10:31 AM -

    Damn! Steph is YOKED!!! Mike, you better behave!

    Thanks for the info Marcus. I get nagged by family members who are concerned with the red meat, bacon, and eggs that Michelle and I consume. So it was unavoidable that I’d have multiple copies of the various articles about this study forwarded to me. The amazing thing to me is how articles in the NY Times, LA Times, CNN and other major news outlets simply proclaim the factual proof of the study’s hypothesis without mentioning any of the shortcomings of the study. Very disappointing news coverage.

    I think one of the comments on Rob Wolf’s page put it best, an FFQ study like this is at best justification to conduct a more rigorous study to test a hypothesis that the FFQ data suggests.

    An interesting detail from the study that is highlighted on Mark’s Daily Apple. The women with the lowest red meat intake claimed to only eat 1200 calories per day. Do you know anyone surviving on 1200 calories per day? Nevermind an average of thousands of women? Even the guys who had the highest red meat intake claimed to only be eating 2400 calories per day. Thousands of average American guys, with high red meat intake, averaging only 2400 calories? That’s comical.

    As always, thanks for the knowledge Marcus!!

    1. Marcus says:

      March 15, 2012 at 10:46 AM -

      @Scott — it’s funny you mention CNN. Their piece actually spoke to a professor in Sweden who endorses the Paleo diet. Most others offered little to no counterpoint to the study (http://www.cnn.com/2012/03/12/health/red-meat-shorten-lifespan/index.html)

  • becky says:

    March 15, 2012 at 10:47 AM -

    Great photo!!

  • Xuan says:

    March 15, 2012 at 12:32 PM -

    Steph = Bada$$
    Mike = Lucky!

  • Scott says:

    March 15, 2012 at 1:58 PM -

    @ Marcus, Good point. While the NY Times and LA Times ran a simple article stating the findings of the study as fact, CNN did have a counter point and did briefly mention the possible shortcomings of the study. Although that was buried at the very end of the article (which I honestly didn’t even get to the first time I read it). And the CNN article seemed to dismiss the counter point by saying the researchers had addressed the additional unhealthy factors (smoking, exercise) in their analysis. So, CNN did definitely have the most thorough coverage of this misleading story.

  • Anna says:

    March 15, 2012 at 2:26 PM -

    Steph your muscles look so mean but your fact is still so kind. Nice try at looking mad!!

  • Stephanie says:

    March 15, 2012 at 2:37 PM -

    I think Alia photoshopped those veins and muscles. I have a funny WOD face which totally captured what I was thinking and feeling.

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