A new scientific study claims to have found little to no health risks related to eating red meat. The study says previous studies that claimed there was a link between red meat consumption and health issues are based on “weak evidence.”
Researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) released a study titled: “Health effects associated with consumption of unprocessed red meat: a Burden of Proof study.” The paper was published in Nature journal in October.
The scientists declared, “We found weak evidence of association between unprocessed red meat consumption and colorectal cancer, breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, and ischemic heart disease. Moreover, we found no evidence of an association between unprocessed red meat and ischemic stroke or hemorrhagic stroke.”
The authors of the study noted, “While there is some evidence that eating unprocessed red meat is associated with increased risk of disease incidence and mortality, it is weak and insufficient to make stronger or more conclusive recommendations.”
The scientists developed a star rating system ranging from one star (no correlation to health risks) to five stars (the most dangerous). The study out of IHME determined that none of the numerous studies linking red meat to health risks rated higher than two stars. A two-star rating would mean the behavior is associated with health risks between 0-15%.
Dr. Steven Novella, a Yale neurologist and president of the New England Skeptical Society who was not a part of the study, penned an article about meat consumption and cited the study.
“The health effect of meat eating at this point are fairly clear. A recently published meta-analysis of health risk factors contains a good summary of this evidence,” Novella wrote. “The evidence for a direct vascular or heath risk from eating meat regularly is very low, to the point that there is probably no risk. You have to eat large daily amounts of processed red meat before a risk becomes measurable.”
He noted that there is a health risk of “eating too few vegetables.”
“That is really the risk of a high-meat diet, those meat calories are displacing vegetable calories,” Novella warned. “For personal health considerations I think a reasonable summary of the evidence is that people should eat most of their calories from fruits and vegetables with some grains, but also include some meat protein. Meat has some vitamins that are hard to get elsewhere and contain high-quality proteins.”
“You can have a healthy vegetarian or vegan diet, but it is challenging, and not possible for some populations,” he added. “The bottom line is that health were the only consideration, the optimal diet would contain a modest amount of meat.”
Dr. Emmanuela Gakidou – professor of Health Metrics Sciences at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation and a lead author of the study – said, “In addition to helping consumers, our analysis can guide policymakers in developing health and wellness education programs, so that they focus on the risk factors with the greatest impact on health. Health researchers can also use this analysis to identify areas where current evidence is weak and more definitive studies are needed.”
The scientists stated, “More rigorous, well-powered research is needed to better understand and quantify the relationship between consumption of unprocessed red meat and chronic disease.”
IHME | Video News Release | Burden of Proof