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New study arguing that limiting meat consumption might not lead to better health has some experts seeing red

2019-10-01

A study conducted by a multi-national consortium of researchers and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine Monday has some experts seeing red after arguing that limiting meat consumption may not lead to significant changes in health for consumers.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine responded to findings by that organization, called nutriRECS, by filing a petition with the Federal Trade Commission objecting to what they called “false statements” in the report. The study’s critics also called it “a major disservice to public health," according to NBC News.

“We found low- to very low-certainty evidence that diets lower in unprocessed red meat may have little or no effect on the risk for major cardiometabolic outcomes and cancer mortality and incidence,” researchers in seven countries reported in the nutriRECS study. They also found in most situations “low- to very low-certainty evidence that decreasing unprocessed red meat intake may result in a very small reduction in the risk for major cardiovascular outcomes (cardiovascular disease, stroke, and myocardial infarction) and type 2 diabetes.”

In summary, while not recommending eating red meat — processed or unprocessed — nutriRECS contended that those who partake of modest dietary reductions could see negligible returns.

“The panel believed that for the majority of individuals, the desirable effects (a potential lowered risk for cancer and cardiometabolic outcomes) associated with reducing meat consumption probably do not outweigh the undesirable effects (impact on quality of life, burden of modifying cultural and personal meal preparation and eating habits),” according to nutriRECS findings.

That recommendation takes into consideration that adult consumers are going to do what they want to do and "a minority of fully informed individuals will choose to reduce meat consumption.”


NBC noted that in his protest to the Annals of Internal Medicine, Dr. Neal Barnard, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, suggested a different headline for the study: "Modest reductions in meat intake yield uncertain benefits.”

The American College of Cardiology also reportedly faulted the study, claiming they were “alarmed by the reckless dietary recommendations.”

Indiana University School of Medicine professor Dr. Aaron E. Carroll, one of the controversial studies’ authors, told NBC that Monday’s findings shouldn’t be seen as an endorsement or red meat.

“I would not say that this is a green light to eat more. I worry that that’s what people will hear, and it’s not what I would say,” Carroll claimed. “I do think that it’s saying that if you’re eating what lots of people do — a couple servings a week — there’s little evidence that more changes will have huge effects.”