Okay, This isn’t really my strong suit, and I don’t usually climb up into the big chair two days in a row, but there’s been several folks asking about the latest study proving that red meat will kill you.
Firstly, keep in mind that these things crop up like spring mushrooms after a rain. Tom just finished debunking one a couple of months ago here.
If you’ve checked out my blog, you know I’m more of an economics nerd. The equivalent in that realm is every other year or so, some liberal think tank or university releases a dramatic new study proving that increasing the minimum wage actually raises employment. It’s always trumpeted on the front page. Once it gets peer review, if they even bother, it gets shredded. Those stories never seem to make the editorial cut, much less get front page attention:
Startling Review of Study Shows Higher Prices Mean People Buy Less, Even for Labor!!!
The irritating part is if you look at them, it seems like they just took the last one that was discredited, then rerun the same plan, then go to press.
So I figured I’d take a look at this one not because I think I can do an original analysis and takedown ala Tom on a fresh study done by “experts,” but because I guessed we could spot some of the same doo-doo that are the hallmark of bogus science.
I hit paydirt pretty quickly and thought I’d pass some easy observations along.
First of all, this isn’t a new study, it’s a meta-analysis where they cherry-pick some studies that have data they want to use. It’s also “observational” in the worst way — from the study’s description of its methodology:
“Diet was assessed by validated food frequency questionnaires and updated every 4 years.”
Okay, if you really insist on good science, you could stop reading right there. Long-term food questionnaires are the hallmark of bogus nutritional science. How many servings of red meat did you eat last Thursday? How about January 12, 2010? You simply can’t invent less reliable information. And fortunately for hacks, with food questionnaires you don’t have to!
“Men and women with higher intake of red meat were less likely to be physically active and were more likely to be current smokers, to drink alcohol, and to have a higher body mass index.”
Can anyone say “Confounding Variables?” The researchers said they adjusted for these.
“We also stopped updating the dietary information after a diagnosis of major chronic disease assuming that participants could have changed their diet after receiving the diagnosis.”
So, instead of actually gathering data, you assume it would’ve changed and stopped asking. Huh? I can’t help but wonder what kind of data they would’ve wanted to not include. Here’s one that popped into my mind:
Meat eater gets diagnosis of chronic disease and, at the insistence of doctor and experts, changes diet to hearthealthywholegrains, avoids arterycloggingsaturatedfat, starts chronic cardio exercise program. Drops dead two years later. Wouldn’t want to show he’d changed his diet, would we? Let’s count him in the red meat column!
Here’s the thing that did it for me. The authors made a statement that “red meat has been shown to increase diabetes.” Again, Huh? The reference for this statement was a study the same authors had conducted. The methodologies and verbiage where the same boilerplate as the current study in question. Their conclusion on that one was this:
“We estimated that substitutions of one serving of nuts, low-fat dairy, and whole grains per day for one serving of red meat per day were associated with a 16–35% lower risk of [Type 2 Diabetes].”
Here’s the thing, kids. If you believe people can dramatically drop their incidence of diabetes by swapping grain in for protein, then I say all we have to do is raise the minimum wage to $500 an hour; we’ll all be millionaires and this whole little economic downturn will be solved overnight.
I don’t know what the authors of this study’s motivation or cause or agenda is, but it sure as hell isn’t the pursuit of good science.
The ironic thing is that the reason Tom isn’t here to respond to this latest step on the slow road to idiocracy is because he’s in Washington D.C. on a mission to get bureaucrats to understand why people don’t trust doctors, scientists, nutritionists, government committees and the panalopy of “experts” who’ve been making us fatter, more diabetic, more arthritic, and more lots of bad stuff while making tons of money for their “owners.”
So, please pass that study on to anybody you don’t like. Then enjoy your bacon and repeat after me,
Scientists are Freaking Liars!
The Older Brother