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Breaking News: Red Meat & Health

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Annals of Internal Medicine published 5 systematic reviews today that looked at the impact of unprocessed red meat and processed meat consumption on health outcomes (heart health, mortality & cancer).


This is the most comprehensive review on the topic of read meat and processed meat. Unlike previous reviews, they assessed the risk of bias, how certain we are of the evidence, and the magnitude of effect. You must be familiar with these if you have read my articles. Based on these 5 reviews, a panel of 14 members, including 3 community members, from 7 countries (had strict criteria concerning conflicts of interest) voted on the final recommendations that adults continue current unprocessed red meat consumption (weak recommendation, low-certainty evidence). Similarly, the panel suggests adults continue current processed meat consumption (weak recommendation, low-certainty evidence). 

Remember, the risk is the same as previous evidence. But they downgraded the evidence due to the low quality and small effect sizes. And hence opted for "weak recommendation".

https://annals.org/aim/fullarticle/2752328/unprocessed-red-meat-processed-meat-consumption-dietary-guideline-recommendations-from

 

And now this is what I call breaking news. I know a few folks here would be love this :)

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There are challenges to the methodology and conclusions

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2019/09/30/flawed-guidelines-red-processed-meat/#qa

 

Here's a sample excerpt, criticizing the procedure for evaluating outcomes:

"If the same procedure were used to evaluate the evidence for other dietary (such as low consumption of fruits and vegetables, high consumption of sugary beverages), lifestyle (such as physical inactivity and inadequate sleep), and environmental (such as passive smoking and air pollution) factors, none of the current recommendations on these factors would be supported by high- or even moderate-quality evidence. "

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31 minutes ago, Sanction said:

There are challenges to the methodology and conclusions

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2019/09/30/flawed-guidelines-red-processed-meat/#qa

 

Here's a sample excerpt, criticizing the procedure for evaluating outcomes:

"If the same procedure were used to evaluate the evidence for other dietary (such as low consumption of fruits and vegetables, high consumption of sugary beverages), lifestyle (such as physical inactivity and inadequate sleep), and environmental (such as passive smoking and air pollution) factors, none of the current recommendations on these factors would be supported by high- or even moderate-quality evidence. "

This feels like an illicit minor fallacy.

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@Ras isn't Dalhousie your old haunt?

 

I've heard this all over the factual news media for the last few days, and I've seen vegans falling apart on social media over it. Thankfully, I just don't give any fucks for this and don't care who is or isn't offended by this. I just know that people are, and it cracks me up a little bit.

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6 minutes ago, Emperor G_D said:

@Ras isn't Dalhousie your old haunt?

 

I've heard this all over the factual news media for the last few days, and I've seen vegans falling apart on social media over it. Thankfully, I just don't give any fucks for this and don't care who is or isn't offended by this. I just know that people are, and it cracks me up a little bit.

Yep, but was never in life sciences so don't know these volk.

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13 minutes ago, Emperor G_D said:

and I've seen vegans falling apart on social media over it.

 

The vehemence with which this has been met speaks volumes about how politicized nutrition science is.

 

Similar to when the PURE study came out...

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3 hours ago, Sanction said:

There are challenges to the methodology and conclusions

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2019/09/30/flawed-guidelines-red-processed-meat/#qa

 

Here's a sample excerpt, criticizing the procedure for evaluating outcomes:

"If the same procedure were used to evaluate the evidence for other dietary (such as low consumption of fruits and vegetables, high consumption of sugary beverages), lifestyle (such as physical inactivity and inadequate sleep), and environmental (such as passive smoking and air pollution) factors, none of the current recommendations on these factors would be supported by high- or even moderate-quality evidence. "


The same group had said the same thing about sugars too in 2016. About vegetables & fruits, I had the same question too. Even Trans fats. 


Saying we supported similar questions using a below par methodology, and hence we should continue to do so is not a real criticism of methodology. The methodology used is well accepted, even used by Cochrane. Also, measuring what we eat is a lot different than measuring  physical activity and inactivity. Also, lot of recent research use objective measures of activity and inacticvity using accelerometers. For food intake, we don't have any objective measures, so far. Don't know much about air pollution and passive smoking. 

 

CNN had a good article summarizing researchers from both sides: https://www.cnn.com/2019/09/30/health/red-meat-low-quality-evidence-controversy-wellness/index.html

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For those who brought up the prior sugar research position...

 



Scientist Who Discredited Meat Guidelines Didn’t Report Past Food Industry Ties
The lead researcher, Bradley C. Johnston, said he was not required to report his past relationship with a powerful industry trade group.

A surprising new study challenged decades of nutrition advice and gave consumers the green light to eat more red and processed meat. But what the study didn’t say is that its lead author has past research ties to the meat and food industry.

The new report, published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine, stunned scientists and public health officials because it contradicted longstanding nutrition guidelines about limiting consumption of red and processed meats.

The analysis, led by Bradley C. Johnston, an epidemiologist at Dalhousie University in Canada, and more than a dozen researchers concluded that warnings linking meat consumption to heart disease and cancer are not backed by strong scientific evidence.

Several prominent nutrition scientists and health organizations criticized the study’s methods and findings. But Dr. Johnston and his colleagues defended the work, saying it relied on the highest standards of scientific evidence, and noted that the large team of investigators reported no conflicts of interest and conducted the review without outside funding.

Dr. Johnston also indicated on a disclosure form that he did not have any conflicts of interest to report during the past three years. But as recently as December 2016 he was the senior author on a similar study that tried to discredit international health guidelines advising people to eat less sugar.

That study, which also appeared in the Annals of Internal Medicine, was paid for by the International Life Sciences Institute, or ILSI, an industry trade group largely supported by agribusiness, food and pharmaceutical companies and whose members have included McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Cargill, one of the largest beef processors in North America.

The industry group, founded by a top Coca-Cola executive four decades ago, has long been accused by the World Health Organization and others of trying to undermine public health recommendations to advance the interests of its corporate members.



Dr. Johnston’s ties to the 2016 ILSI-funded sugar study show how ILSI has methodically cultivated allies in academia around the world, and how it recruits influential scientists to help shape global nutrition advice and counter what it perceives to be anti-food industry guidelines by health organizations.

When Dr. Johnston and his colleagues first published the sugar study, they said that ILSI had no direct role in conducting the research other than providing funding, but later amended their disclosure statement in the Annals after The Associated Press obtained emails showing that ILSI had “reviewed” and “approved” the study’s protocol.



Dr. Johnston said the real problem is that people don’t want to accept findings that contradict long-held views. “People have very strong opinions,” he said. “Scientists should have intellectual curiosity and be open to challenges to their data. Science is about debate, not about digging your heels in.”

But Dr. Hu said Dr. Johnston’s methods were not very objective or rigorous and the tool he employed in his meat and sugar studies could be misused to discredit all sorts of well-established public health warnings, like the link between secondhand smoke and heart disease, air pollution and health problems, physical inactivity and chronic disease, and trans fats and heart disease.

“Some people may be wondering what his next target will be,” Dr. Hu said. “But I’m concerned about the damage that has already been done to public health recommendations.”

 

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