New Research: Meat eaters likely to die prematurely. Comments? Just read this in today's paper.

"Eating red meat increases the chances of dying prematurely, according to a large federal study that offers powerful new evidence that a diet that regularly includes steaks, burgers and pork chops is hazardous to your health.

The study of more than 500,000 middle-age and elderly Americans found that those who consumed the equivalent of about a small hamburger every day were more than 30 percent more likely to die during the 10 years they were followed, mostly from heart disease and cancer. Sausage, cold cuts and other processed meats also increased the risk."

Does anyone know who funded the research, or if there are any holes in the researchers methodologies? Comments welcome. I'm confused.
asked by Larry C on March 25, 2009
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I've read this diet report very carefully and commented in depth on the NYTimes Well blog ... there is no data presented in the study that implies meat eaters live any less long than non-meat eaters. The authors obscure this point.

What is true in this multivariate statistical study is that when people were graded by red meat (or by processed meat) consumption rates, then the those in the higher quintiles of red/processed meat consumption did worse than those in the lower ones. However, when the same people were ordered by their white meat consumption, then the more white meat they ate, the better were their outcomes.

But, the authors did not include refined carbohydrate consumption as one of the variables in any of their protocol analyses, and this confounding variable was almost surely correlated with higher red meat consumption, based on one of the tables in the paper which shows various averages of the red meat eater characteristics: higher smoking, less exercise, less education, etc. (Those variables were taken into account in the analyses, just not the refined carbohydrate one.) Unfortunately there is not corresponding table for white meat eaters.

I expect that if the refined carb variable were taken into account, then the differences between white meaters and red meaters would disappear; it would certainly be nice to know one way or the other, and also what the addition of this variable would show vis. overall meat consumption correlations with mortality. I believe that if the authors had found any significant correlations between overall total amount of meat eaten and mortality rates in their (flawed) analyses, they surely would have included them in their report.

For more precise comments, see the two links below, along with other poster comments. I would say this study and the reporting of it in the press are further confirmation of some of Taubes' points: that the nutrition establishment in this country discounts the fact that refined carbohydrates are detrimental to health, and so doesn't think to include this variable in their studies; and that the dogma that meat eating is unhealthy also pervades the press, so that they don't do due diligence in actually critiquing science articles carefully.

Here are the Well blog links:

Here is the link to the Archives of Internal Medicine paper:
Nick answered on March 28, 2009
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Until the 1950's our animals ate grass. With the introduction of CAFOs, we began eating animals with an altered fatty acid composition. Our beef, chicken, pork etc. is not of the same quality in omega-3 adn omega-6 fatty acids as it needs to be for optimal human health. I agree, eating meat is bad for you, as the previous poster mentioned, if it is processed and its food source is corn and soy mash. Eating meat if fine if it is from grass-fed animals. That is the same meat we have been eating for tens of thousands of years and what our bodies are adapted to for optimal health. It is not the 'meat' it is what the meat eats!

We feed our animals the same crappy diet we eat... what do you expect?
E. Fox answered on July 24, 2009
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always remember: correlation does not prove causation.
K. Meyers answered on May 26, 2010
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Thanks for your excellent explanation and for the links. After reading Taubes book, I dramatically changed my dietary habits, so you can imagine my concern when I heard and read some of the reporting of the research. Now, I'm about to go to the links you provided. Thanks again.

Larry C answered on April 1, 2009
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You make some interesting points, Nick.
I suppose some people who eat large amounts of red meat probably do so without regard to their health (as they have been led to understand by the general "red meat is bad" public consensus), so they may also have other dietary and lifestyle habits that are not healthful, such as eating large amounts of refined carbs, heavy alcohol consumption, lack of exercise, and smoking. Whereas people who are trying very hard to be health-conscious may eat a lot of the so-called "good white meat", also eat more veggies, whole grains and exercise. In other words, there are many variables unaccounted for, and without knowing the answers to some of these important questions, it would be difficult to know if eating large amounts of red meat as part of a well-informed, HEALTHY lifestyle would in fact be detrimental at all (I would think it would be neutral or perhaps a positive factor).
C. A. Willis answered on July 20, 2009
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Response to E Fox:

I agree completely regarding the health of our farm animals. How many people today actually buy meat from sources where animals are: a) grass fed, b) not injected with hormones, c) not injected with antibiotics and d) allowed to roam freely? My guess is almost ZERO percent of the population. So while meat per se may not be bad, the meat we consume today surely is detrimental to our health.
Robert Ruddy answered on September 20, 2010
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A recent study on the relationship between protein consumption and IGF shows that vegans have a lower IGF level which should be good for cancer as well as longevity. (

People in The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest all eat less meat and more whole grains and beans than Americans but none of them are vegans
D.M. answered on July 29, 2010
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You are so transparent but also lazy. That study has NOTHING to do with vegans. Next time try reading it.
Robert Sweeney answered on July 18, 2011
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Protein restriction decreases free radicals and increases longevity in rodents. Restricting fat or carbs doesn't make any difference.
D.M. answered on August 14, 2010
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[Deleted by the author on Jan 3, 2010 6:14:30 PM PST]
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