Controversial new research: Red meat not linked to health problems

World Today

FILE – In this Jan. 18, 2010 file photo, steaks and other beef products are displayed for sale at a grocery store in McLean, Va. The meat industry is seeing red over the dietary guidelines. The World Health Organization’s cancer agency says Monday Oct.26, 2015 that processed meats such as ham and sausage can lead to colon and other cancers, and red meat is probably cancer-causing as well. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Good news for steak and burger lovers. An international panel of researchers said that meat-eating habits may not be linked to health problems. It’s a dramatic U-turn in public health advice that’s alarmed many in the scientific community. CGTN’s Gerald Tan explains.

A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine contradicts prevailing wisdom. It said consuming red and processed meats – including beef, lamb and sausages – isn’t all that bad.

According to a co-leader of the review, Dr. Bradley Johnson, “Based on the research, we cannot say with any certainty that eating red or processed meat causes cancer, diabetes or heart disease.”

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

The study has sparked a backlash. Harvard University warns the findings erode public trust in scientific research.

So, is red meat the next controversial food item? We’ve seen a similar debate over eggs: a protein powerhouse, which also contains saturated fat and cholesterol.

Carbohydrates are often vilified. Pasta, bread, rice – all energy staples shunned by high-protein diet proponents, because carbs convert to sugar and too much sugar can be toxic and linked to diseases like diabetes.

But the red meat dilemma has a social dimension, too. Plant-based meat substitutes and the vegetarian movement are gaining popularity as food that’s kinder to the environment.

Dietary guidance certainly changes over time. But because humans need a matrix of nutrients to stay healthy – everything from carbs and vitamins to salt and fat – one piece of advice seems to resonate: a little moderation goes a long way.