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Chew on this! Critics sink their teeth into red meat study

March 13, 2012|By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times / for the Booster Shots blog
  • New research on health risks associated with eating red meat provoked strong reactions.
New research on health risks associated with eating red meat provoked strong… (Mark Boster / Los Angeles…)

On Monday, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health released a study that linked red meat consumption with increased risk of early death.

Probably not surprisingly, the report, which was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine along with the editorial “Holy Cow! What's Good For You Is Good For Our Planet” from Dr. Dean Ornish (the man who helped convince Bill Clinton to go vegan), attracted a lot of interest. 

The American Meat Institute was among the first to dispute the findings.  In a statement issued Monday, the industry group criticized the Harvard study for “relying on notoriously unreliable self-reporting about what was eaten and obtuse methods to apply statistical analysis to the data.”

During an interview last week with The Times, Kaiser Permanente cancer researcher Lawrence H. Kushi — who was not involved with the Harvard study but said the work produced “important results" — acknowledged that epidemiological studies of survey data aren’t as rigorous as a blinded, randomized trial.

But since it’s really not possible to do such a study for this kind of research, large epidemiological studies are the state of the art in this discipline, Kushi said.  It’s “as good as you can do without randomizing people — some eating red meat, others not, and following them for 15 to 20 years,” he added.

Over at, vegetarians loved reading our article about the Harvard research; die-hard carnivores — and, for that matter, some who just appreciate an occasional bite of steak — expressed dismay, and more than a little disdain.

Commenter khantot:

Duh!  In other news, rain will get you wet.

“It's astounding the amount of backlash this article is getting,” agreed AMGsilver:

This study simply confirms the conventional wisdom that has held for decades: that eating high fat, high cholesterol foods contribute to a wide range of health problems.  Eating Big Macs and Hot Dogs are bad for you, who'd have known?

But jhklat saw it differently:

#Epicfail.  Animal protein and fat, including red meat, is good for you.  This is yet another desperate attempt to torture statistics until they say what you want them to say.

And so did JayWalsh:

Once again, more junk science and scare-tactic conclusions from the left.

Jojopea wondered about moderation:

We'd like to believe that we are the masters of our own fate, but we're not ..... you can't figure out how to live forever . . .

If you COULD prolong your life by eating one way or another, are you getting extra "good" years, or are you just adding to your "diaper" years? 

All things in moderation & quit stressing about it.

J Stanley wondered if the real problem wasn’t what people eat, but what cattle eat: 

I notice there is no mention of the difference between organic grass-fed beef and commercial corn-fed beef. . .  I think this study is more of an indictment of industry practices than it is of red meat itself.  Our food industry is killing us. 

And Robert B.Singleton offered a shout-out for the bovine set:

Cows of the future will celebrate 3/13 as a holiday.

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