For years scientists and dieticians told us to eat less red meat. Consumption of red meat would lead to an increased risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases. That claim is now being challenged by a study published this week.
According to scientists, there is insufficient evidence that eating less beef and pork is beneficial to our health. The observed health effects are too small to advise people to eat less red meat. This is the conclusion reached by 14 scientists from 7 different countries who have been working on the research over the past three years.
The group studied dozens of studies in which a total of more than four million subjects participated. They found only minimal links between eating red meat, certain diseases, and death. The researchers do not see the observed effects at the group level convincing enough to trace this back to the individual. According to the researchers, one cannot say that it is unwise to eat red meat.
However, the study has received considerable criticism. Even before the study was published, some scientists asked for its publication to be postponed. Some Harvard University researchers also argue that the research’s conclusions “undermine the credibility of food science and undermine confidence in scientific research.” The American Heart Foundation and the American Foundation against Cancer are also unhappy about the research.
The disagreement between the scientists seems to revolve mainly around how research is conducted into eating habits and their effects on health. This makes it difficult for outsiders to judge who is right. But it is also difficult for doctors and dietitians to give patients concrete advice based on existing – imperfect – research.
In addition to health reasons, there are other reasons for eating less meat. Consider, for example, the price, concerns about the environment and/or animal welfare.
The figures stand in sharp contrast to the ‘large-scale consumers’ in the Americas: in the US in 2018 people ate an average of almost 100 kilos of meat, of which more than 35 kilos of beef and 20 kilos of pork.
The Argentinians appear to be the least impressed by the dietary advice to eat less red meat: according to the latest figures, they consumed more than 54.5 kilos of beef per year. That is perhaps not surprising when you look at the prices: with the Argentinian butcher, a kilo of prime rib costs $10.