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More Stupid Nonsense

So, Rashmi Sinha, PhD; Amanda J. Cross, PhD; Barry I. Graubard, PhD; Michael F. Leitzmann, MD, DrPH; and Arthur Schatzkin, MD, DrPH all set out to prove that eating red meat kills you, and — surprise! surprise! — they got the result they were looking for in the first place.

Now, I have not looked at this in detail, mostly because it's the same formula I see all the time. In this case, they get a half million old people, give them a questionnaire on their eating habits over the past 12 months (relying upon their memories), then they see who croaks and who doesn't over the next ten years — ten years riddled with general, increasingly hysterical propaganda about cutting fat, avoiding meat, eating more grains and vegetable oils — not to mention an explosion of high-sugar, highly processed, vegetable oil and grain ladden packaged foods — many of them criminally labeled and advertised as "healthy" or "heart healthy;" and the assumption in the study, of course, is that the subjects continued to eat as they had eaten (or, rather, how they recalled from memory how they had eaten).

It's utter crap, and here's their bias on display going into the thing in the first place.

To investigate whether the overall composition of meat intake was associated with mortality, we created 3 diet types: high-, medium-, and low-risk meat diet. To form these diet variables, red and white meat consumption was energy adjusted and split into 2 groups using the median values as cut points. Individuals with red meat consumption in the upper half and white meat consumption in the lower half got a score of 1 (high-risk meat diet), those with both red and white meat consumption in the same half got a score of 2 (medium-risk meat diet), and those with red meat consumption in the lower half and white meat consumption in the upper half got a score of 3 (low-risk meat diet).

So, even before knowing what results they would get, they assessed the "risk" of the diets based on the amount of red meat consumed. You don't think for a second that they would design a study that had any major risk of showing a result where the "low-risk diet" was highest in associated risk, do you?

This kind of crap means nothing to us, folks. And the reason it means nothing is because they are simply comparing a bunch of people eating mostly crap diets (as most Americans do, now) in various mixes of crap & decent food. This is totally inapplicable to a Paleo-like dieter who eats 95% + whole, real food and abstains from killer whole grains, heart-attack-in-a-bottle vegetable oils, concentrated sugar — and all the derivatives loaded with one or more of these — and takes it easy on the starches and fruits.

Now go eat your blood red meat.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

14 Comments

  1. Monica on March 24, 2009 at 14:01

    I was so glad you blogged on this. I'm too busy. Dr. Eades is going to blog it, too.

    Of course, you noticed that the only controlled variables they mention include things commonly thought of as increasing cancer risk (like smoking) but NOT anything else the subjects were eating. Newsflash to authors of this crap study: lots of Americans get their "cancer causing" red meat served to them on a great big white bun with a load of other carbohydrates (soda, chips, fries) and inflammatory-inducing n-6 vegetable oils on the side. DUH!

    Then there's the whole global warming hoopla. UGH. I'm seeing this kind of pseudoscientific green crapola everywhere now. Which is why I recently felt compelled to write about the environmentalist meat myths here:

    https://web.archive.org/web/20100107153735/http://www.fa-rm.org/blog/2009/03/cow-tax-and-petas-dishonesty.html

    and here:

    https://web.archive.org/web/20100107153727/http://www.fa-rm.org/blog/2009/03/thoughts-on-environmental-effects-of.html

  2. Aaron on March 24, 2009 at 18:28

    Here is a link to Dr.Eades blog about this that Monica mention earlier.

    http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/bogus-studies/meat-and-mortality/

  3. Monica on March 24, 2009 at 19:14

    Robb Wolf also blogged on this article today. I linked you, Robb, and Dr. Eades here on your reporting on this "study": https://web.archive.org/web/20100107153744/http://www.fa-rm.org/blog/2009/03/more-on-meat-and-sustainability-and.html

  4. Lute Nikoley on March 24, 2009 at 13:50

    I read this article in the Modesto Bee this morning, was going to forward it to you. But then thought, naugh he'll already be on it. I was right.

  5. John on March 24, 2009 at 13:54

    so I took a look through and I think their controls are pretty bad. The red meat group starts out with a higher BMI higher rate of smoking etc. There is a warning that the white meat group has a higher level of education, physical activity and intake of fruit and veggies as well as a bias towards caucasians therefore the conclusions cannot be applied to the population as a whole.
    I thought it was really shoddy work and then the comments in the archive on it were more geared towards attacking animal farming methods of big corporate farms and whether or not an animal based diet is sustainable.
    Basically it is crap.

  6. Nancy R. on March 24, 2009 at 14:36

    Monica: Yeah, the green politicization of the results from this "study" is one of the most aggravating aspects of it getting such traction in the mainstream press. That and the fact that people actually get away with publishing studies like this under the guise of real science.

  7. John Campbell on March 24, 2009 at 21:10

    Typical – scatter shot approach to research on diet – aim the gun – setup the target and zut alors – a direct hit! 19 times out of twenty, doubtful biological significance, no useful information resulting, more misleading snippets of sound bites coming out of meaningless research.

    How many bits and pieces of data and conclusions are out there? – coffee is good for you, coffee is bad for you, coffee in the right dose may be good for you, or not so good. Bad research yielding useless conclusions. Real research into the effects of diet is very difficult – any clinical human research is difficult and can be very expensive. I know – I did clinical human research for my M.Sc. – I have nothing but respect for good research, but most of this stuff couldn't or shouldn't get past a thesis committee, but the popular press eats it up. It's just another piece of infotainment for the masses.

    I believe that most of the general population is so jaded that they do not believe much of this stuff. Instead, they doubt that science is a useful enterprise, that no one really knows anything and no matter what diet you are on, you are destined to become overweight and decrepit. This fate is inevitable unless you won the gene lottery when your mom and dad skipped their bowling night.

    I believe most people are smart – too smart to believe this drivel, but they do not know what to believe. At least people like you Richard are trying to educate people. I am so glad I stumbled upon Art DeVany's blog just over a year ago – before that I was one of the jaded masses. The truth will triumph, but man it looks like a long time coming. Thanks for blasting this lame excuse for what was likely a huge government grant to the ivory tower white coats. Another thread in the tapestry of lies and falsehoods about a healthy human diet – sigh.

    On a positive note, my Porterhouse steak pan fried in butter this evening was delicious served with a nice American Cabernet – health tastes soooooo good. Cheers Richard!

  8. Joe Matasic on March 25, 2009 at 05:38

    I read this study yesterday after my wife brought it to my attention the night before. I told her not to believe it. Some other points…when I read it, the first thing I noticed was it was observational and then food recall on the questions. 2nd, plenty of questions about carbs in the diet but no data in the study. Why, of course everyone knows carbs are healthy. Sarcasm implied. 3rd in the conclusion but not in the results, they noted that the increase amount white meat consumption in the non-smoker group increased the risk of cancer.

    Once again I'm sure that people who disregard any health advice, even the really incorrect health advice, will have other bad habits. Processed foods, no exercise, etc. Of course that's born out by Richard's point about the demographics of red/white meat populations. And, of course, the advice for health would be to cut out red meat and saturated fat.. What a shame.

    Joe

  9. Dan on March 25, 2009 at 07:36

    After 40 years under the lipid hypothesis, non-uniform compliance by the general public has, predictably, created impossibly confounded results. Of course, the goody-goodies eat less red meat than the "mavericks" who didn't follow (or even hear about) the mainstream advice. The researchers knew about this and claimed to have "corrected" for it. But how?

    Did they correct for sugar intact, for PUFA intake? No, they corrected for smoking, exercise, vegetable intake, age, etc. Ok, that's good and likely eliminates some confounding errors, but clearly not all. For instance, these clownish researchers reluctantly admitted in the comment section of the full paper that additional processed meat consumption was associated with LOWER MORTALITY among the never-smoker group. What?

    The fact that daily processed meat consumption doesn't increase risk of death among non-smokers in this study of 500,000 people is strong evidence for me that meat is really really healthy given all the confounding errors the researchers likely left remaining.

    It is basically impossible to correct for 40 years of indoctrination. If the whole medical establishment had told us that smoking was healthy for the past 40 years, we would have associative studies confirming it now. Basically, all the goody-goodies would be puffing away, while they exercise, eat balanced diets, and have frequent visits to the doctors. Overall mortality in this group would "moderately" edge out the "crazy" non-smoking crowd.

  10. Richard Nikoley on March 25, 2009 at 16:10

    A great comment and comprehensive overview, Dan

    Richard Nikoley

  11. Richard Nikoley on March 25, 2009 at 16:14

    Another great and comprehensive comment!

    Richard Nikoley

  12. KJC on March 29, 2009 at 04:07

    Hi, I'm just wondering what you mean by "killer whole grains" (last paragraph)? I thought whole grain foods were supposed to be good for you? I don't study this stuff like you do, so I'm hoping for a bit of information/enlightenment.

  13. Richard Nikoley on March 29, 2009 at 12:03

    That's a big subject, KJC. In brief, we're not evolutionarily adapted to them, they having been a part of out diet only for a brief instant on an evolutionary time scale. They contain all sorts of anti-nutrients and toxins that cause low-level, chronic inflammation which leads to all sorts of problems with long-term ingestion.

    Here's a few things to check out:

    https://web.archive.org/web/20101204100932/http://heartscanblog.blogspot.com/2009/03/wheat-belly-revisited.html

    I should point out that for those last two links, I an in strong disagreement with Dr. Cordain on the issue of saturated fats and lean meats. I advocate unrestricted consumption of fatty meats.

  14. Hindu Beefeater on March 29, 2009 at 11:59

    For KJC:

    You must be new here. So am I 🙂

    Whole grains are bad for you. First there is the whole issue of phytic acid in the outer part (bran). Then lectins and insulin mimetics in the inner part. This applies to grains and beans in general, not to nuts and leaf-vegetables or tubers.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1979229

    Then, fiber is undigestible by humans. So the "wholer" the grain you eat, the more gut bacteria you have, with attendant complications (humans are not ruminants, we were not designed to have pseudo rumens!). Also significant endothelial damage inside the gut (fiber scrapes the lining), leading to inflammation, and the contamination of blood by intestinal waste. There may be a difference between soluble (better) and insoluble (bran) fiber in this regard.

    Yum. I used to eat whole grain bread and felt very saintly. It was probably zinc deficiency. Now I feel great and eat as much of a true mediterranean diet (lots of fatty meat, no oil other than olive, some veg, no fruit) as I can.

    In summary: Wheat causes an insulin spike. Even whole grain. Your body was not designed to work that way. It was designed to consume protein and fat, with long fasts possible in between.

    Richard: I can confirm your comment about Thai morphology versus subcontinental. Not only that, but in certain parts of the south where rice is a staple, heart disease is through the roof, baldness is endemic and so are potbellies. Metabolic syndrome in full swing.

    And cows roam the streets, uneaten!

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