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The Latest in Food and Nutrition Studies

Is eating bacon and red meat healthy?

The latest Science and Health Research says YES.

Please check out the full Vox article link at the end.  

It goes through the process of how the researches in the past few weeks came to claim -

There’s no health reason to eat less meat.

"...The Annals series has prompted a fierce blowback from various groups who’ve long argued that red and processed meat consumption should be curbed. The American Cancer Society, American Heart AssociationHarvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and a slew of other researchers objected to the series. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine — a group that’s long endorsed a plant-based diet — filed a petition with the Federal Trade Commission in response to the studies, asking the agency to “correct false statements” contained in the report, which they deemed a “major disservice to public health.”

So how did the authors of the new studies come to a wildly different conclusion? It’s less a story about whether or not one should eat meat and more about the challenges of nutrition science and how eating recommendations should be made.

Why the study authors determined eating red meat is fine for health

In the past, many of the groups that have set guidelines for whether or not humans should cut back on meat considered a very broad range of research, from animal evidence to case-control studies, a relatively weak type of observational research.  As you may have guessed, there are all kinds of problems with these kinds of study designs.

Models based on animal studies don’t always bear out in humans.

Case-control studies are not the most reliable,

Either: Researchers start with an endpoint (for example, people who already have cancer). For each person with a disease (a case), they find a match (a control) — or someone who doesn’t have the disease. They then look backward in time and try to determine if any patterns of exposure (in this case, eating meat) differed in those with cancer compared to those who don’t have cancer.

But since meat eaters differ so fundamentally from those who don’t eat meat, the reasons the two groups have varying health outcomes could have nothing to do with meat. Researchers try to control for these “confounding factors,” but they can’t capture all of them.

Some past reports on meat eating have also factored in the environmental and social effects of gobbling up steaks and bacon.

The five Annals papers did something different: They looked only at the health effects of processed and unprocessed red meat.  Processed red meats — everything from hotdogs and bacon to lunch meats — are transformed by salting, curing, or fermentation. Unprocessed meats include beef, veal, pork, lamb, and venison. The papers were also systematic reviews and meta analyses, or syntheses of the research evidence that bring together a bunch of studies with the goal of coming to more fully supported conclusions. And the researchers used a very strict definition of what constituted reliable evidence for inclusion in their reviews."

They used a tool called GRADE.  

"....More specifically, they relied on a trusted research-rating system called GRADE, or the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation, to decide which studies to include in their papers. GRADE was developed for creating summaries of research evidence to help guide health decision-making. It’s currently the most widely used tool for evaluating the quality of science, with more than 110 organizations endorsing the method.

The idea behind GRADE is to push reviewers to base their conclusions on only the most certain evidence available. And, according to the tool’s criteria, in the case of meat consumption and health, that was large cohort studies and randomized control trials. So the researchers simply threw everything else out, including the animal studies.

The logic was simple, says study author Gordon Guyatt, a professor at McMaster University who also helped develop GRADE. “What GRADE does is say we should rely on the highest quality evidence. In this instance, we had 600 cohort studies alone.”

Cohort studies are considered to be more trustworthy than case-control studies. Unlike case-control studies, they follow people with a known exposure (eating meat) through time, waiting to see if, when, and how many people develop a particular health outcome (such as heart disease or cancer). This means researchers are not left searching for artificial controls to match their cases. And since participants are followed forward, researchers can track in real time what they’re eating instead of relying on people’s faulty memories of the past...."

Keep reading the Full Article here.