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Red meat gets the all clear – eat up!

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After years of being told that meat is unhealthy over and over again, five new systematic reviews say that most people can continue to eat red and processed meat as they do now, writes Fiona Kane.

Public health officials have for many years been telling us to reduce consumption of red meat and processed meats based on concerns that these foods are linked to health issues including cancer and heart disease.

These major studies published in the Annals of Internal Medicine earlier this month have found cutting back has little impact on health. The five systematic reviews are the most comprehensive review of the evidence to date. An international collaboration of researchers produced a series of analyses concluding that the advice we have been given on meat which has hugely influenced almost all dietary guidelines, is simply not backed by good scientific evidence.

There was outrage even before this study was published with a group including some outspoken vegan scientists trying to stop it from being published. In my opinion when we are looking at scientific studies, we need to focus on the science, not on belief. As individuals we can choose to eat meat or not for our own reasons however it is important not to confuse science with religion or belief.

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I believe that this information should influence future dietary recommendations, hopefully they will begin to make sense again. This of course raises some very uncomfortable questions about dietary advice and nutritional research as it should! So many nutrition studies are poor quality and/or influenced by people with vested interest in the outcomes. For years I have been shaking my head when looking at nutrition studies. 

A good example of a study vilifying meat is that they don’t differentiate between those who eat meat with their meal deal (burger, fries and fizzy drink) from a local fast food burger drive through and those who eat meat with vegetables in a home cooked meal. They often find that the people who eat meat, drink cola and eat ultra-processed junk food are more likely to develop health problems (no kidding)! Then they surmise that it must be of course because of the meat! This is why I have always found it hard to take meat studies seriously in the past.

The other issue with nutritional studies is that they don’t take all factors into account. It is not really possible to do this in a study. There are many things that influence your health, these include your genetics, getting enough sleep, moving your body, your attitude, ability to manage stress, quality of your relationships, whether you have fun, take time to rest etc. Nutrition is just one part of the puzzle.

Thanks goodness we finally have a study that brings back some common sense, the focus should be to go back to basics, real, fresh food. You don’t need to be a scientist to know that good quality meat served with vegies is a healthy and nutritious meal. Eat in a way that works for you, listen to your body and look at all of the factors required for good health.