Is red meat back on the menu?
An international team of researchers has concluded that cutting back on red and processed meat consumption has no significant health benefits—a controversial finding that contradicts decades of studies and has sparked furious responses from nutritional scientists. Groups such as the American Heart Association and the World Cancer Research Fund have recommended for years that people eat less beef, lamb, pork, and processed meats (such as bologna) because of evidence linking them to heart disease, stroke, cancer, and other illnesses. But after evaluating more than 130 studies covering some 4 million participants, the international panel of researchers said there was only weak, low-quality evidence linking red meat consumption with disease and early death. “For the majority of people, but not everyone, continuing their red and processed meat consumption is the right approach,” lead author Bradley Johnston, an epidemiologist at Dalhousie University in Canada, tells Time.com. But many nutritional scientists claim that the team’s research method was deeply flawed. They note that the new study relied primarily on randomized, controlled studies—which are commonly used in drug trials—rather than on the observational studies that make up the bulk of nutrition research. Those studies are conducted by tracking the eating habits and health outcomes of people over many years. The new research, says cardiologist Elizabeth Klodas, “just adds to the confusion for patients. The conclusions are not the conclusions of the medical community.” ■