Health Care

No Need to Cut Down Red and Processed Meat Consumption

No Need to Cut Down Red and Processed Meat Consumption”

Gunter Kuhnle, professor of nutrition and food science at the University of Reading, said the research was thorough but that the weak evidence of possible harm should be taken into account.

The conclusion that there was no significant benefit to reducing red meat consumption was weak and more research was warranted, she said.

"It's kind of like saying: "we know helmets can save lives, but some people still prefer the feeling of the wind in their hair when they ride bikes".

Dr Giota Mitrou, director of research, said it "could be putting people at risk by suggesting they can eat as much red and processed meat as they like without increasing their risk of cancer".

Not all of the report authors agreed with its conclusions.

The World Health Organisation has classified processed meat as carcinogenic since 2015. But this is different to what many other researchers and experts say - that if people ate less processed meat in the United Kingdom alone, it could prevent around 5,400 cases of bowel cancer every year.

The World Cancer Research Fund has warned against red and processed meats since 2010. So this should not change current recommendations to eat a healthy, balanced pattern of food that is limited in red and processed meat. For example, a Harvard-led study published June 12 in the BMJ concluded that people who increase their red meat intake by just half a serving a day boost their risk of dying over the next eight years by 10 percent.

It did, as it turns out.

Both randomised controlled trials and cohort studies had inherent biases and were not useful in medium- or long-term examinations of the effects of common foods like meat on "hard" outcomes like coronary disease, cancer or death, he said.

Using that framework, the group found "only low-certainty evidence of a very small reduction in cancer or other adverse health consequences from reducing meat consumption [by three servings per week, ]" Johnston says.

A panel of 14 experts was subsequently convened to examine all five reviews, and offer overall recommendations for red meat consumption.

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The review focused exclusively on health considerations, and did not consider ethical or environmental reasons for abstaining from meat, the researchers noted.

Johnston added: "We focused exclusively on health outcomes, and did not consider animal welfare or environmental concerns when making our recommendations". Public health bodies worldwide urge people to limit their intake of red and processed meat to reduce their cancer risk.

Based on their reviews, a panel of 14 global experts recommended most adults should keep eating their current levels of red and processed meat, estimated at three to four times a week in North America, Europe and New Zealand.

He said: "Our bottom line recommendation - which is a weak recommendation based on low quality evidence - is that for the majority of people, not everyone, continuing their red and processed meat consumption is the right approach".

A statement by the Harvard School of Public Health, shared with Reuters by Frank Hu, a doctor and chair of the nutrition department, said: "From a public health point of view, it is irresponsible and unethical to issue dietary guidelines that are tantamount to promoting meat consumption, even if there is still some uncertainty about the strength of the evidence".

"Major sources of saturated fat include meat and full-fat dairy", Lichtenstein said.

One flaw of the new evidence review is that, while it included studies with vegetarian participants, it did not compare the health of those who eat meat against those who don't, said Dr. Neal Barnard, founding president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a group that advocates for plant-based diets.

It's true that people who eat meat less than once a week have about the same health risks as people who eat more meat, Barnard said.

Among the observational studies, which covered millions of people, they did find "a very small reduction in risk" in those who ate three fewer servings of red or processed meat a week, but said this association "was very uncertain".

"The headlines are going to say 'burger lovers rejoice, you can eat all the meat you want, ' and that's a completely irresponsible message", Barnard said.

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