13 March 2012

Red meat can kill us? I'm sceptical...

It is in the news today  that regularly eating red meat a few times a week greatly increases your chance of dying from various health issues, such as heart disease and cancer. Furthermore, news stories are claiming that for every additional day each week that you eat red meat, you increase your chance of dying by a fifth. Whereas I don't disagree that eating too much red meat is harmful to your health - too much of any type of food isn't healthy - I do criticise these speculations.

Cuts of red meat can supposedly harm your health, increasing your risk of dying early.

Many people forget and overlook the fact that humans, simply put, are just animals. Despite all we've built and accomplished at global levels, we still evolved from single-celled organisms like every other form of life on the planet. As such, we have evolved to eat meat - humans are omnivores, which are essentially species of herbivores whose ancestors began to eat meat and are still in the evolutionary transitional phase before evolving into carnivores, hence eat both plants and meat. Thus red meat, which is highly nutritious, is part of our diet and we have evolved in order to be able to eat it.

The Telegraph: "Red meat is blamed for 1 in 10 early deaths"

Therefore, I think that these speculations, quite frankly, are absurd. The study that these findings are based on was an observational study over 20 years  in the USA, which found a positive correlation between eating red meat and dying early, suggesting that the factors are linked. However, the study did not take into account other factors, such as what else they ate and their overall health. Many people in Northern America are severely overweight and the USA has the highest levels of clinical obesity in the world. Thus, many of the participants in the study may have been overweight and could have died from such issues anyway. The main problem of the study is that it is purely observational and does not control for such factors, like a lab-based study would. A lab study, for example, may have only used healthy participants of average weight, so its findings would be much more applicable to the general population.

Although eating excessive quantities of red meat a week could be unhealthy, I think that by itself, eating too much red meat is very unlikely to cause any significant harm to our health. The study did not control for other health factors and until a better, more convincing experiment comes to light telling me otherwise, I will continue to eat red meat and suggest that you don't worry and do the same.

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