comscore Eliminating red meat lowers risk for heart disease, cancer and more | Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Eliminating red meat lowers risk for heart disease, cancer and more

                                Steaks and other beef products are displayed for sale at a grocery store in McLean, Va., in 2010.


    Steaks and other beef products are displayed for sale at a grocery store in McLean, Va., in 2010.

‘No need to reduce red or processed meat consumption!” “Beef and Bacon Healthy?” “Red Meat Isn’t Unhealthy, a New Study Says.” Whoa! Huh? What?

No wonder so many of you get discouraged about adopting better nutritional habits and sink into a sofa of despair with a bag of corn chips. When it comes to nutritional news, it can seem impossible to figure out what to believe and how to act.

>> But listen up: If you’ve recovered from having your mind blown after reading those headlines, we’re here to help you put your plan for healthier living back together, with accuracy and confidence. We want you to know we’re mad as heck about the mischaracterization of the nutritional data used in the study that launched those saturated-fat-soaked headlines.

>> The straight advice: Ditch red and processed meat. That’s the healthy action that helps eliminate life-damaging inflammation and plaque-filled arteries, and lowers your risk for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, digestive woes, dementia and a lousy sex life.

>> Next: Don’t make yourself crazy over it. You can remove red and processed meats from your diet in steps and reap great benefit. A study out of the University of Nottingham found that if you cut your red meat consumption in half over 12 weeks, you can see a significant drop (10% on average) in your artery-clogging, stroke-inducing LDL cholesterol level.

>> Another example: The Nurses’ Health Study (121,700 women ages 30-55) and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (51,529 men ages 40-75) have gathered data since the mid-1980s that shows replacing 5% of calories from saturated fats (found in meats and dairy) with whole grains cuts the risk of coronary heart disease by 9%.

>> The meat of the issue: Why the eat-the-stuff-that-kills-you headlines are out there, and why they are wrong.

The researchers (none of whom are nutritional experts) who put out the “eat meat” recommendations decided that the quality of most nutritional studies wasn’t up to snuff because they weren’t conducted as randomized double-blind research (like what might be used to find out whether a medication is effective in treating, say, headaches). But there’s a serious problem with that opinion, according to everyone from the American Cancer Society and American Heart Association to Frank Hu, chairman of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He explains that most nutrition studies are necessarily observational because nutritional effects take time to appear. There’s no realistic way to have a group of people eat red meat daily for 20 years, another group eat none and a third consume “placebo meat,” and then see what happens. But observational nutritional insights from large demographic research projects are reliable ways to uncover accumulating information that leads to solid conclusions.

The truth is that every one of the studies criticized in the paper showed that over specific time periods, eating red meat increases all-cause mortality and the incidence of cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Three 4-ounce portions a week increased death rates by 9%; six of those portions upped the rate by nearly 20%.

It’s also worth noting that one of the authors of the pro-meat study previously authored a study that challenged the evidence showing that you should limit your intake of added sugar — and the study was largely funded by a nonprofit established by the food and beverage industry. It appears that the statisticians who wrote the study summary didn’t care whether they hurt you or your family.

>> Bottom line: Processed and red meats, along with refined carbs and added sugars, are health bombs that raise your lousy LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and promote the risk of heart disease, diabetes and dementia. So, cut down or cut out the foods that set you up for a roster of chronic diseases. By reducing or eliminating your red meat consumption, you help protect the planet, too.

Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chairman of the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email questions to

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