It's been all over the news lately: a Harvard study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine last week links red meat consumption to increased mortality. But is that reason enough to give up meat altogether, or is all about moderation... and the kind of meat you eat?
The study—which involved 121,342 men and women who filled out health and diet questionnaires between 1980 and 2006—found that a daily increase of three ounces of red meat was associated with a 12 percent greater risk of dying over all, including "a 16 percent greater risk of cardiovascular death and a 10 percent greater risk of cancer death," as The New York Times reported. The stats worsened with processed meat.
While the evidence seems strong (indeed both The New York Times and the LA Times published dramatic titles around the study), critics of the study say that there was no adequate accounting for other lifestyle factors. (Indeed, researchers note that "people who ate more red meat were less physically active and more likely to smoke and had a higher body mass index," according to the Times.) Additionally, while the researchers did distinguish between processed and unprocessed meat, they didn't differentiate between industrial and non-industrial, grass-fed and pastured meat. Scientist and San Francisco foodie Darya Pino finds this an important point, especially "when considering cancer mortality, since toxic compounds tend to accumulate in the fat of animals."
It also seems that moderation is the key. NPR notes that "the study found that people who replaced one serving of red meat with alternative sources of protein decreased their risks of premature death. Choosing chicken and other poultry decreased the risk by 14 percent, fish decreased the risks by 7 percent and legumes decreased the risk by 10 percent."
Read the Study: Red Meat Consumption and Mortality | The Archives of Internal Medicine
For more on the study and the reaction to it, read the following articles:
• Risks: More Red Meat, More Mortality | The New York Times
• No Surprise: Meat Is Bad For You | Mark Bittman
• Red Meat is Killing Us All... or Not | Summer Tomato
• Death By Bacon? Study Finds Eating Meat Is Risky | NPR
(Image: Faith Durand)