Conflicting Advice on Red Meat Explained
The sensational headlines have baffled many in the nutrition world as a new study seemed to turn the time-tested advice on red and processed meat consumption on its head. This yoyoing is not uncommon in the diet world as food items like eggs and butter are promoted then vilified by one study after another.
This time round there appeared to be no turning back as researchers argued meat wasn’t that bad after all. So what is going on and what are the facts. Let’s take a close look at the basis for the new claims and whether they stand scrutiny.
Observational Studies Leads to Red Meat Advice
The reports doing the rounds in the media are based on an analysis of previous research by the Nutritional Recommendation (NutriRecs) Consortium concluded it is not necessary to reduce red and processed meat intake. It is important to note that these conclusions are not based on new research or discovery but are based on the argument that current advice on meat consumption is founded on weak research. The study authors then go ahead and state that since meat-eating is enjoyed universally and it would be difficult for many to restrict it, then it is should be consumed as normal.
The problematic findings have been panned by authorities no less than the American School of Cancer Research and Harvard School of Public Health and it is no doubt there are more refutations to come. So how exactly did the Nutritecs Consortium come up with a study that disputed conventional recommendations backed by years of research? Answering this question requires looking at methodologies involved in most food studies.
Point of Contention on Red Meat Advice
Nutrition as a science is largely based on what are known as observational studies. In essence, observational studies in the nutritional world involve observing the eating habits of individuals over a lengthy period of time and employing a number of techniques to determine the causes of health problems.
They then analyze this observed data to link foods and diseases, for example, cholesterol and heart disease. Another common method in observational research tries to match cause and effect through collecting personal data from recent habits over a period of time and comparing this with a control group. The point of contention is that these types of studies do not pinpoint cause and effects but general trends and are prone to error.
A better-regarded technique is the random controlled trial which involves placing participants in a more scientific environment for a period of time. This type of research model is expensive and unsuitable for some phenomena like nutrition as it usually takes years for health issues caused by diet to surface.
Bottomline on Red and Processed Meat
In a nutshell, the new study is a sort of hatchet job as it dispels years of mountain evidence and then gives recommendations without any proof. It ignores the fact that observational research methods are not invalid scientifically but are the only acceptable way to study some phenomena. On top of that, when different and varied studies point in the same direction it strengthens the case for a particular finding.