One of the facts that nutritionists have said that the science is settled about has been that for people to remain healthy, they need to eat less red meat. WebMD, where many people go to get health information, has been very clear. “For heart disease, the answer is pretty clear. Some red meats are high in saturated fat, which raises blood cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol increase the risk of heart disease.” For cancer, the evidence is less clear. In any case, that burger that you like to grill is a heart attack in a bun, according to the received wisdom.
Now, however, an article in the New York Times cites another study that states, in effect, “Never mind.”
“But on Monday, in a remarkable turnabout, an international collaboration of researchers produced a series of analyses concluding that the advice, a bedrock of almost all dietary guidelines, is not backed by good scientific evidence.”
Essentially what the new study suggests that the health benefits of cutting out red meat are so low as to be almost undetectable. The study has been published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The conclusions of the study are bound to please barbecue fans and people who are pushing a diet that is rich in protein. Some current food science suggests that it is not food with a little bit of fat that can kill you, but sugar. Healthline believes that diets with too much sugar lead to obesity, which in turn can lead to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The conclusion of the study that suggests that red meat is not all that bad for you is getting pushback, particularly from the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society. These and other groups believe that the new study will have the effect of eroding public trust in nutritional science. However, the new study is just the most recent one that has constituted an about-face in the health effects of fats, salt, and carbs. People who have been following the shifting and often contradictory studies that argue about what one should put in one’s stomach would be forgiven for being a tad confused.
The conclusion that red meat is not all that bad for you is also a shock to the climate change community. Some climate advocates have suggested that cattle, raised for meat and milk production, contribute to greenhouse gasses that cause climate change. Some of these advocates, such as Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have demanded that cattle production be outlawed entirely. Others have moderated that view, only suggesting that a tax be placed on red meat to discourage its production.
On the other hand, nothing in the study suggests that you can’t cut back on red meat if you think that be so doing you are saving the planet.
So far vegan groups, not to mention PETA, have not weighed in on the study’s conclusion, but one can but imagine what the reaction is going to be.
One of the problems with deciding whether one type of food is healthy or not is that the theories have not been subjected to clinical trials, such as the case when evaluating new drugs. Getting someone to stick to a diet long enough to determine whether or not it’s healthy may be impossible.
Also, the question arises whether or not the health effects of beef is determined not so much by the meat one consumes but what one has with it. Someone who downs a hamburger with a sugary soft drink may have a different health outcome than someone who drinks, say, an iced tea with an artificial sweetener. What about the person who eats a steak but also a green salad?
In any case, health experts suggest that the best way to navigate the conflicting claims of nutritional science may be to vary one’s diet. In other words, you don’t have to give up the burgers, steaks, or sliced brisket. But it may be advisable to also consume chicken and fish on occasion. Be sure to add a veggie side dish as well. Every steak house has a salad bar. Make use of it. If you are concerned about fat content, pick lean cuts of beef.
It also goes almost without saying that sensible cardio exercise is a good thing. The trick, according to experts, is to be sensible about diet and exercise, not obsessive.