A new study published in the scientific journal Nature claims that there are little to no health risks related to eating red meat. This study claims that earlier research linking beef and pork consumption with health issues is based on “weak evidence.” Researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) published the study in October. It’s titled: “Health effects associated with consumption of unprocessed red meat: a Burden of Proof study.”
In the study, the researchers make what some people will believe are bold statements. “We found weak evidence of [an] 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.”
However, the authors did acknowledge the possible dangers of eating beef and pork. “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.”
IHME scientists developed a star rating system to determine how dangerous certain behaviors are in relation to health risks. It ranges from one star being the least harmful and five stars signifying the most dangerous. They found that none of the studies linking beef and pork consumption to health risks rated higher than two stars. This means there is a 0-15% chance of risk.
Experts weigh in on the meat-eating study
Though he was not involved in the study, Dr. Steven Novella–a Yale neurologist and president of the New England Skeptical Society–wrote an article discussing meat consumption and included the new research. “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 explained. “The evidence for a direct vascular or health 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 also noted the health risk of not consuming enough vegetables.
“That is really the risk of a high-meat diet, those meat calories are displacing vegetable calories,” Novella pointed out. “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,” Novella explained. “The bottom line is that health were the only consideration, the optimal diet would contain a modest amount of meat.”