The Latest “Meat Kills!” Study

      77 Comments on The Latest “Meat Kills!” Study

Here we go again with the latest “Meat Kills!” study.  You may have already seen it reported in the news with headlines like Vegetarians cut heart disease risk. Here are some quotes from that article:

Vegetarians are nearly a third less likely than meat-eaters to die or be hospitalized from heart disease, British researchers report this week in another study supporting a plant-based diet.

Vegetarians have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, weigh less and are less likely to have diabetes, as well, the researchers report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The study, which covers 45,000 people over an average of 11 years from the 1990s through 2009, shows that vegetarians were 28 percent less likely to develop heart disease over that time.

Well, that’s it, then.  Drop the burger, pick up the tofu meat substitute, and save your heart.

Nawww, let’s read on:

“The results clearly show that the risk of heart disease in vegetarians is about a third lower than in comparable non-vegetarians,” said Tim Key, deputy director of the Cancer Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford.

The researchers said they accounted for age, smoking, drinking, exercise, educational level and socioeconomic background in making their calculations. Over the 11 or so years, 1,235 of the volunteers were diagnosed with heart disease, and 169 died of heart disease – the No. 1 cause of death in both Europe and the United States.

In the disclosures section of the full study, Tim Key (quoted above) is listed as a member of the Vegetarian Society, United Kingdom.  That makes me a wee bit suspicious … although Chris Gardner of Stanford is also a vegetarian, and he conducted the clinical trial of four different diets that found the Atkins dieters lost the most weight and showed the greatest improvements in their cardiovascular risk factors.  Dr. Key isn’t necessarily biased just because he promotes vegetarian diets.

So let’s look at this particular study and ask ourselves some Science For Smart People questions:

Q: Is this a clinical study or an observational study?

A: It’s an observational study based on questionnaires and medical records.  We can’t make conclusions about cause and effect from observational studies, but at least in this case the researchers aren’t asking the study subjects to accurately remember everything they ate during the past several years.  Most people can surely give an accurate answer to the question “Have you been a vegetarian for at least the past five years?”

That being said, comparisons of vegetarians versus non-vegetarians are always likely to produce skewed results for the simple reason that vegetarians tend to be more health-conscious than the population as a whole.  That means they’re different in all kinds of ways.  Not eating meat is just one of them.

Q: Did the researchers control their variables?

A: Not really, no.  In the full text of the study, the researchers admit that the participants are not a representative sample of the British adult population.  In fact, both the vegetarians and non-vegetarians in the study population had lower-than-usual rates of heart disease.  Then there’s this little issue:

Risk factors such as hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and diabetes may be mediating factors through which vegetarianism affects the risk of IHD; therefore, the analyses were not adjusted for these variables.

In other words, since we believe meat-eating causes hypertension, hyperlipidemia and diabetes, we didn’t adjust for any of them.  When I read that sentence, I scoured the study to see if rates of diabetes were reported.  Yup … and the non-vegetarians (let’s just call them meat-eaters from here on) had more than double the rate of diabetes.

Now … since diabetics are three times more likely to die of heart disease than non-diabetics, do you think maybe we have a confounding variable here?  If you believe eating meat causes diabetes (as the vegetarian researcher probably does), then yes, you could choose to ignore that as a variable.  But if you believe diabetes is caused by excess sugar consumption, you can’t.

Since clinical studies have shown that low-carb, meaty diets can control and often reverse diabetes, I seriously doubt eating meat causes diabetes.  So what we’re likely seeing here is that the vegetarians consume less sugar than the meat-eaters – once again, comparing health-conscious people to the population as a whole.

Then there’s the age problem.  Here’s the breakdown of the study participants with their average ages at the time they were enrolled:

6,831 non-vegetarian men, average age = 49.5
22,610 non-vegetarian women, average age = 46.3

3,771 vegetarian men, average age = 41.8
11,349 vegetarian women, average age = 38.4

With a little Excel magic, I determined that the overall average age of the meat-eaters at the beginning of the study was 47 years old.  The overall average age of the vegetarians at the beginning of the study was 39 years old.

The researchers compared their medical records 11 years later.  At that point, the average meat-eater was 58 years old and the average vegetarian was 50 years old.  Now take a look at the chart below, which shows CDC figures on heart-disease deaths rates by age bracket.

The heart-disease death rate in the 55-64 year-old-bracket is more than double the rate in the 45-54 year-old-bracket.  The meat-eaters were far more likely to fall into the age group where the rate of heart-disease death more than doubles.

Ahhh, but the researchers assured us they adjusted the data for age, gender, BMI and smoking status.  Perhaps, but I have my doubts.  Those “adjustments” are where a lot of mathematical manipulations occur, as Dr. John Ioannidis has pointed out in his criticisms of observational studies.

Here’s part of the reason I have my doubts:  in the study, the researchers made this statement:

On the basis of the absolute rates of hospitalization or death from IHD, the cumulative probability of IHD between ages 50 and 70 y was 6.8% for nonvegetarians compared with 4.6% for vegetarians.

“Absolute rates” means no adjustment for age or anything else.  And yet the meat-eaters, who fall into the 55-64 age group on average, had a heart-disease rate of 6.8%, while the vegetarians, who fall into the 45-54 age group on average, had a heart-disease rate of 4.6%.

Hmmm … the CDC chart shows heart-disease deaths more than doubling as we move from one age bracket to the next (an increase of 131%), yet our older meat-eaters were just 32% more likely to have heart disease than their younger vegetarian counterparts, according to the study.  Something doesn’t feel right here.  Given the difference in average age, the difference in death rates in the non-adjusted data ought to be more dramatic.

Oh, but wait … if you read the study, the researchers weren’t comparing death rates.  They were comparing a diagnosis of heart disease – a combination of deaths chalked up to heart disease and heart-related problems such as angina.  In fact, of their 1,235 medical data points, just 169 were actual heart-disease deaths.  Which leads me to our next question:

Q: Is there any important data that seems to be missing?

A: Oh, you betcha.  The researchers had medical records for diagnoses of heart-related problems, they had medical records for heart-disease deaths, they knew who was and wasn’t a vegetarian, and they dutifully reported the differences in all heart-related problems combined for meat-eaters versus vegetarians … and yet stunningly, they didn’t report the difference in death rates – not for heart-disease deaths, and not for deaths from any cause.

Never fear.  This isn’t the first time these researchers dug into the data they collected for the purpose of publishing a paper.  Here’s the conclusion from another study using the same dataset titled Mortality Among British Vegetarians:

The mortality of both the vegetarians and the nonvegetarians in this study is low compared with national rates. Within the study, mortality from circulatory diseases and all causes is not significantly different between vegetarians and meat eaters, but the study is not large enough to exclude small or moderate differences for specific causes of death, and more research on this topic is required.

In other words, We’d like more funding so we can keep torturing the data until it tells us that eating meat will kill you.

Go enjoy your steak.

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77 thoughts on “The Latest “Meat Kills!” Study

  1. Kristin

    Well heck. Seems like I’ve become a fangirl if I’m the first to post a comment to this article. I think one of the takeaways I have from this article is how easy it is to blind yourself with your own bias (well, unless it was deliberate and I’m not going there.) This is a great analysis. I’ve read some studies and I’m also a computer programmer (and therefore can do math better than teenage Barbie) and I get my knickers in a twist at the language.

    So I have a lot of respect for you digging through the data to present a coherent analysis for those of us who didn’t take all that time. As a programmer with a day job and know how much work that is I just have to ask: has your work with Fathead, this blog and all your speaking engagements allowed you to retire from cutting code for a living or are you just that driven?

    Nope, still coding for a living. I wrote the post at the office after work, then drove home after 9:00. Chareva was just finished cooking up a steak when I got home. There goes my 54-year-old heart.

    Reply
  2. Darren Doyle

    Thanks for the analysis! This is what popped into my head as I was reading… It’s likely that this is some spurious math, and the numbers are not really direct comparisons (hospitalizations/deaths from IHB vs overall deaths) … I welcome corrections…

    GIVEN:
    Meaties: 55-64 age bracket = 6.8% probability of IHD
    Veggies: 45-54 age bracket = 4.6% probability of IHD

    General Populace: 45-54 age bracket = 85.4 deaths per thousand
    General Populace: 55-64 age bracket = 198.0 deaths per thousand

    85.4 –> 198.0 = 232% increase
    198.0 –> 85.4 = 57% decrease

    SO…
    4.6% increased 232% = 10.672% for veggies compared to 6.8% for meaties
    OR
    6.8% decreased 57% = 2.924% for meaties compared to 4.6% for veggies

    BOTTOM LINE:
    When you age adjust, the veggies have a 57% higher cumulative probability of IHD.

    Yup, something doesn’t pass the smell test here.

    Reply
  3. Beowulf

    I’m so glad you jumped on this one. When I read the news article today, I put on my Science for Smart People hat (the one that has padding in the forehead region) and did some thinking, but I didn’t get quite all of the issues you pointed out. It’ll be a nice link to send anyone who brings up the study. Thanks!

    Thanks for reading.

    Reply
  4. Marilyn

    A headline like “Vegetarians Cut Heart Disease Risk” could just as well mean that vegetarians reduced heart disease risk among their own group.

    Reply
  5. Anne Robertson

    Another confounder could be that many people call themselves vegetarians while still eating fish.

    Reply
  6. Kristin

    Well heck. Seems like I’ve become a fangirl if I’m the first to post a comment to this article. I think one of the takeaways I have from this article is how easy it is to blind yourself with your own bias (well, unless it was deliberate and I’m not going there.) This is a great analysis. I’ve read some studies and I’m also a computer programmer (and therefore can do math better than teenage Barbie) and I get my knickers in a twist at the language.

    So I have a lot of respect for you digging through the data to present a coherent analysis for those of us who didn’t take all that time. As a programmer with a day job and know how much work that is I just have to ask: has your work with Fathead, this blog and all your speaking engagements allowed you to retire from cutting code for a living or are you just that driven?

    Nope, still coding for a living. I wrote the post at the office after work, then drove home after 9:00. Chareva was just finished cooking up a steak when I got home. There goes my 54-year-old heart.

    Reply
  7. Jan C

    Just a couple of other points to add to the pot here. I’m actually taking part in that EPIC study. I joined it at the start because the researchers were advertising for vegetarians in the Vegetarian magazine here in the UK. I was very interested in vegetarianism at the time and followed a largely vegetarian diet (but with fish) for many years. For some years we ate no meat at all.

    I can’t remember what was filled in for the first questionnaire, but there have been two subsequently, I think. They require you to fill in a food diary for one week, which I faithfully did each day, so it was certainly more accurate than not. Having said that, both times I filled in the diary they weren’t ‘typical’ weeks, for one reason or another, so I had to make a note in the comments section.

    I remember when the researchers were looking for people to take part, they were particuarly interested in getting more vegetarians. Those people who are interested enough to buy the Vegetarian magazine (published by the Vegetarian Society), and who would have responded because of that, would be very health-conscious, eating lots of fresh vegetables and aiming for low-fat meals and being more inclined to cook from scratch – I certainly have never bought ready-made meals. Other vegetarians might just elminate meat and eat soya-based and other ‘fake’ vegetarian foods in its place, but they may not have been the ones taking part. So this could also be an important aspect of the research. The vegetarians taking part may not necessarily be representative of all vegetarians.

    Incidentally, I’ve recently increased my meat consumption dramatically.

    Considering that the vegetarians they recruited tend to be more motivated and health-conscious, the fact that they don’t have a lower overall mortality rate speaks volumes.

    Reply
  8. Darren Doyle

    Thanks for the analysis! This is what popped into my head as I was reading… It’s likely that this is some spurious math, and the numbers are not really direct comparisons (hospitalizations/deaths from IHB vs overall deaths) … I welcome corrections…

    GIVEN:
    Meaties: 55-64 age bracket = 6.8% probability of IHD
    Veggies: 45-54 age bracket = 4.6% probability of IHD

    General Populace: 45-54 age bracket = 85.4 deaths per thousand
    General Populace: 55-64 age bracket = 198.0 deaths per thousand

    85.4 –> 198.0 = 232% increase
    198.0 –> 85.4 = 57% decrease

    SO…
    4.6% increased 232% = 10.672% for veggies compared to 6.8% for meaties
    OR
    6.8% decreased 57% = 2.924% for meaties compared to 4.6% for veggies

    BOTTOM LINE:
    When you age adjust, the veggies have a 57% higher cumulative probability of IHD.

    Yup, something doesn’t pass the smell test here.

    Reply
  9. Beowulf

    I’m so glad you jumped on this one. When I read the news article today, I put on my Science for Smart People hat (the one that has padding in the forehead region) and did some thinking, but I didn’t get quite all of the issues you pointed out. It’ll be a nice link to send anyone who brings up the study. Thanks!

    Thanks for reading.

    Reply
  10. Marilyn

    A headline like “Vegetarians Cut Heart Disease Risk” could just as well mean that vegetarians reduced heart disease risk among their own group.

    Reply
  11. JasonG

    I believe we Average Joes are smart enough to use logical reasoning to navigate BS articles and science. Your always entertaining analysis exactly guides us how to spot creative facts. Thank you, Tom.

    My new English 102 teacher frightens me because he teaches with the mantra, “Respect me because my PhD grants me expertise.” For a research paper, we are required to find only “scholarly” sources which are peer-reviewed, published by academic institutions, and written by highly-credentialed authors.
    We are told that our thesis and paper cannot have an opposing viewpoint, since “there is only one-side to a fact.” Doesn’t he realize that those institutions can use the peer review system to silence opposing views? Is it impossible for those authors to be biased? Doesn’t sound logic trump perceived authority?

    Unfortunately in schools, many teachers don’t want students to think. The goal is to train an obedient populous. This is particularly interesting since my class focuses on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender studies. The class encourages tolerance. What happened in recent history when these same academic institutions usually held an anti-gay sentiment? Back then, searching for scholarly sources would have given a completely different opinion. Only because the status quo was challenged, did the schools change their standing.

    Bottom line is we can think for ourselves. People need to think critically and trust their own judgement instead of having unquestioning faith in popular experts.

    “the refusal to think–not blindness, but the refusal to see” –Ayn Rand.

    There’s only one side on these issues? That’s one scary teacher.

    Reply
  12. Taysha

    One thing that really gets to me is the Diabetes angle here. I’m T1. ALL I hear from my doctors is how I’m doomed to all these horrible outcomes because the research tells them so and I should just get on all these drugs to prevent them.
    Except that I’m actually pretty healthy (very overweight, but there was this one thing about having kids and having to push insulin by the vial for 9 months so they’d be healthy….yeah).
    What they don’t tell you, is the research usually doesn’t look much at compliant diabetics (who have few complications and don’t fit clinical trials) but looks at non-compliant diabetics, or undertreated diabetics (the ones who get told “you’ll be fine if your blood sugar averages 180”), who are the majority. So, of course, even if they adjust for conditions like diabetes, they usually tend to make the crucial mistake of not discriminating between compliant and non-compliant. And the difference is huge.
    So they could just as easily be seeing an effect of compliance with diabetes treatment as the effect of a steak. Takes a heck of a lot more discipline to be a healthy diabetic than a vegetarian.

    Reply
  13. Adam

    Good work. The biggest issue I have with any comparitive analysis such as this is that there is no control on what either group eats other than the fact that they eat meat (or not). One person’s diet might be preformed soy infused chicken nuggets washed down with a supersized Coke-Cola three times a week while the other might be a nice slab of grass fed prime rib with ice water and mixed greens. No doubt the study was junk science at its best.

    Good work Tom I enjoy your posts!

    They reported on intakes of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, but there was nothing about sugar. Since sugar could well be the most damaging food we put in our bodies, that’s a huge oversight.

    Reply
  14. Jan C

    Just a couple of other points to add to the pot here. I’m actually taking part in that EPIC study. I joined it at the start because the researchers were advertising for vegetarians in the Vegetarian magazine here in the UK. I was very interested in vegetarianism at the time and followed a largely vegetarian diet (but with fish) for many years. For some years we ate no meat at all.

    I can’t remember what was filled in for the first questionnaire, but there have been two subsequently, I think. They require you to fill in a food diary for one week, which I faithfully did each day, so it was certainly more accurate than not. Having said that, both times I filled in the diary they weren’t ‘typical’ weeks, for one reason or another, so I had to make a note in the comments section.

    I remember when the researchers were looking for people to take part, they were particuarly interested in getting more vegetarians. Those people who are interested enough to buy the Vegetarian magazine (published by the Vegetarian Society), and who would have responded because of that, would be very health-conscious, eating lots of fresh vegetables and aiming for low-fat meals and being more inclined to cook from scratch – I certainly have never bought ready-made meals. Other vegetarians might just elminate meat and eat soya-based and other ‘fake’ vegetarian foods in its place, but they may not have been the ones taking part. So this could also be an important aspect of the research. The vegetarians taking part may not necessarily be representative of all vegetarians.

    Incidentally, I’ve recently increased my meat consumption dramatically.

    Considering that the vegetarians they recruited tend to be more motivated and health-conscious, the fact that they don’t have a lower overall mortality rate speaks volumes.

    Reply
  15. Jason

    Great job Tom! I’m a huge fan here in Australia. My wife lost 20 kilos since watching FATHEAD and ditching the carbs. We’ve never felt better.

    The female newsreader I heard sounded so smug as she reported this study – as if it were fact – not some pointless observational study.

    Now we’re the ones who feel smug when people tell us we should be eating those “heart-healthy” whole grains and not all that “artery-clogging” saturated fat!

    I feel sorry for the herd who believe the mainstream media.

    Keep up the good work.

    Most media health reporters lack either the ability or the motivation to analyze studies and see if they’re actually meaningful.

    Reply
  16. Phyllis Mueller

    Thanks for this timely analysis. I also found it interesting that the authors are cancer researchers, but I didn’t see anything in their analysis about cancer deaths in the two groups. Did the full study mention this?

    Was the term “vegetarian” defined? (Many people who call themselves “vegetarians” are frequent fish eaters, for example.)

    The age-group analysis is the most telling. If nothing else kills you first, heart problems will eventually. That’s an inconvenient truth that gets ignored, particularly by “wear red” campaigns for raise heart disease “awareness,” the American Heart Association, and research studies such as this one.

    They defined “vegetarian” as someone who claims to have avoided meat and fish for at least five years. They didn’t cover cancer in this report, but did in another one. In that study, vegetarians had slightly lower rates of cancer overall (again, probably less sugar in the diet) but actually had higher rates of colon cancer. So much for “meat causes colon cancer.”

    Reply
  17. JasonG

    I believe we Average Joes are smart enough to use logical reasoning to navigate BS articles and science. Your always entertaining analysis exactly guides us how to spot creative facts. Thank you, Tom.

    My new English 102 teacher frightens me because he teaches with the mantra, “Respect me because my PhD grants me expertise.” For a research paper, we are required to find only “scholarly” sources which are peer-reviewed, published by academic institutions, and written by highly-credentialed authors.
    We are told that our thesis and paper cannot have an opposing viewpoint, since “there is only one-side to a fact.” Doesn’t he realize that those institutions can use the peer review system to silence opposing views? Is it impossible for those authors to be biased? Doesn’t sound logic trump perceived authority?

    Unfortunately in schools, many teachers don’t want students to think. The goal is to train an obedient populous. This is particularly interesting since my class focuses on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender studies. The class encourages tolerance. What happened in recent history when these same academic institutions usually held an anti-gay sentiment? Back then, searching for scholarly sources would have given a completely different opinion. Only because the status quo was challenged, did the schools change their standing.

    Bottom line is we can think for ourselves. People need to think critically and trust their own judgement instead of having unquestioning faith in popular experts.

    “the refusal to think–not blindness, but the refusal to see” –Ayn Rand.

    There’s only one side on these issues? That’s one scary teacher.

    Reply
  18. Firebird

    Davey Jones, I’d like to have a word with you on this article. You’re a vegetarian, what are your thoughts on heart disease and heart attacks…wait a minute…

    To quote another dead singer, “Don’t be cruel …”

    Funny, though.

    Reply
  19. darMA

    I’m so glad you’ve been addressing vegetarian/vegan studies and issues recently because it ties in with what I was watching last night – a very scary but informative video about B12 deficiency, ie, signs, symptoms, red flags, related health problems and the disastrous results if gone untreated. It includes interviews with doctors, researchers and victims, including a pediatrician who was near death until he was finally diagnosed and a vegetarian family’s beautiful little boy who is permanently brain damaged. It’s about 53 minutes long but is riveting and important for (I think) everyone to see because everyone is at risk of it being overlooked or misdiagnosed.

    Reply
  20. Taysha

    One thing that really gets to me is the Diabetes angle here. I’m T1. ALL I hear from my doctors is how I’m doomed to all these horrible outcomes because the research tells them so and I should just get on all these drugs to prevent them.
    Except that I’m actually pretty healthy (very overweight, but there was this one thing about having kids and having to push insulin by the vial for 9 months so they’d be healthy….yeah).
    What they don’t tell you, is the research usually doesn’t look much at compliant diabetics (who have few complications and don’t fit clinical trials) but looks at non-compliant diabetics, or undertreated diabetics (the ones who get told “you’ll be fine if your blood sugar averages 180”), who are the majority. So, of course, even if they adjust for conditions like diabetes, they usually tend to make the crucial mistake of not discriminating between compliant and non-compliant. And the difference is huge.
    So they could just as easily be seeing an effect of compliance with diabetes treatment as the effect of a steak. Takes a heck of a lot more discipline to be a healthy diabetic than a vegetarian.

    Reply
  21. Stephanie

    I always love your study breakdowns!

    On another note, I know I’m a bit late, but I’m just finishing Lierre Keith’s “The Vegetarian Myth.” Excellent book. I almost feel like giving a copy to all my vegetarian friends, but I know they wouldn’t read it and they would look at me like I’m a crazy person. Everybody knows that a vegetarian diet is the healthiest/most ethical/doubleplusbest way to to eat. Right, right !?!?

    I’d wager that would be a “you can lead a horse to water …” situation.

    Reply
  22. Lori

    Maybe the adjusted heart disease rates for vegetarians was higher because they generally eat less protein than meat eaters. With insufficient protein, the body digests its own muscle.

    Reply
  23. Eric

    As an aside, I’m sporting my new Wheat Is Murder shirt in the office today 🙂

    I’ll bet that draws a few looks.

    Reply
  24. TonyNZ

    Are you getting smarter or are these studies getting dumber?

    And in regard to JasonG’s post, this sounds like eugenics of the academic literature.

    Sadly, I don’t think it’s a case of me getting smarter.

    Reply
  25. Adam

    Good work. The biggest issue I have with any comparitive analysis such as this is that there is no control on what either group eats other than the fact that they eat meat (or not). One person’s diet might be preformed soy infused chicken nuggets washed down with a supersized Coke-Cola three times a week while the other might be a nice slab of grass fed prime rib with ice water and mixed greens. No doubt the study was junk science at its best.

    Good work Tom I enjoy your posts!

    They reported on intakes of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, but there was nothing about sugar. Since sugar could well be the most damaging food we put in our bodies, that’s a huge oversight.

    Reply
  26. Brian Edwards

    I am curious about including the Southeast Asians who eat a vegetarian diet in America. It is well know they have high rates of metabolic syndrome and subsequent cardiovascular disease. Interesting analysis Tom.

    Reply
  27. Brian Edwards

    What jumped out at me is that the vegans weigh less.
    That is a confounding co-variable.
    They matched the two groups for age but not for weight?
    They claim cholesterol is less in Vegans. To not specifically talk about comparing LDL-P or apo B, they show they don’t understand the lipid profile.
    Read Understanding the Entire Lipid profile Thomas Dayspring MD, FACP at https://docs.google.com/document/d/1OLlPcLWorU7cSq8fJh8CXuzYVR_85w_SoHgoRdl6kKk/edit

    They claimed they adjusted for BMI.

    Reply
  28. Larry

    I usually sent your blog to my Kindle to read. The Kindle is B/W only. It would be helpful if you would indent quoted text.

    Reply
  29. Jason

    Great job Tom! I’m a huge fan here in Australia. My wife lost 20 kilos since watching FATHEAD and ditching the carbs. We’ve never felt better.

    The female newsreader I heard sounded so smug as she reported this study – as if it were fact – not some pointless observational study.

    Now we’re the ones who feel smug when people tell us we should be eating those “heart-healthy” whole grains and not all that “artery-clogging” saturated fat!

    I feel sorry for the herd who believe the mainstream media.

    Keep up the good work.

    Most media health reporters lack either the ability or the motivation to analyze studies and see if they’re actually meaningful.

    Reply
  30. Ulfric M Douglas

    I’d just like to point something out :
    FISH = MEAT

    Now, are there any studies which actually study vegetarians?

    Reply
  31. Phyllis Mueller

    Thanks for this timely analysis. I also found it interesting that the authors are cancer researchers, but I didn’t see anything in their analysis about cancer deaths in the two groups. Did the full study mention this?

    Was the term “vegetarian” defined? (Many people who call themselves “vegetarians” are frequent fish eaters, for example.)

    The age-group analysis is the most telling. If nothing else kills you first, heart problems will eventually. That’s an inconvenient truth that gets ignored, particularly by “wear red” campaigns for raise heart disease “awareness,” the American Heart Association, and research studies such as this one.

    They defined “vegetarian” as someone who claims to have avoided meat and fish for at least five years. They didn’t cover cancer in this report, but did in another one. In that study, vegetarians had slightly lower rates of cancer overall (again, probably less sugar in the diet) but actually had higher rates of colon cancer. So much for “meat causes colon cancer.”

    Reply
  32. Firebird

    Davey Jones, I’d like to have a word with you on this article. You’re a vegetarian, what are your thoughts on heart disease and heart attacks…wait a minute…

    To quote another dead singer, “Don’t be cruel …”

    Funny, though.

    Reply
  33. darMA

    I’m so glad you’ve been addressing vegetarian/vegan studies and issues recently because it ties in with what I was watching last night – a very scary but informative video about B12 deficiency, ie, signs, symptoms, red flags, related health problems and the disastrous results if gone untreated. It includes interviews with doctors, researchers and victims, including a pediatrician who was near death until he was finally diagnosed and a vegetarian family’s beautiful little boy who is permanently brain damaged. It’s about 53 minutes long but is riveting and important for (I think) everyone to see because everyone is at risk of it being overlooked or misdiagnosed.

    Reply
  34. Stephanie

    I always love your study breakdowns!

    On another note, I know I’m a bit late, but I’m just finishing Lierre Keith’s “The Vegetarian Myth.” Excellent book. I almost feel like giving a copy to all my vegetarian friends, but I know they wouldn’t read it and they would look at me like I’m a crazy person. Everybody knows that a vegetarian diet is the healthiest/most ethical/doubleplusbest way to to eat. Right, right !?!?

    I’d wager that would be a “you can lead a horse to water …” situation.

    Reply
  35. Lori

    Maybe the adjusted heart disease rates for vegetarians was higher because they generally eat less protein than meat eaters. With insufficient protein, the body digests its own muscle.

    Reply
  36. TonyNZ

    Are you getting smarter or are these studies getting dumber?

    And in regard to JasonG’s post, this sounds like eugenics of the academic literature.

    Sadly, I don’t think it’s a case of me getting smarter.

    Reply
  37. Archie Robertson

    I’m afraid there is a little misspelling in the name of the famous Greek researcher: it’s not Dr. John Ionnidis but Dr. John Ioannidis (or Dr John P. A. Ioannidis, to give his full handle!).
    Sorry to nit-pick, but “Google oblige”!

    Nit-pick away. I’d rather get the man’s name right, thanks.

    Reply
  38. Brian Edwards

    I am curious about including the Southeast Asians who eat a vegetarian diet in America. It is well know they have high rates of metabolic syndrome and subsequent cardiovascular disease. Interesting analysis Tom.

    Reply
  39. Brian Edwards

    What jumped out at me is that the vegans weigh less.
    That is a confounding co-variable.
    They matched the two groups for age but not for weight?
    They claim cholesterol is less in Vegans. To not specifically talk about comparing LDL-P or apo B, they show they don’t understand the lipid profile.
    Read Understanding the Entire Lipid profile Thomas Dayspring MD, FACP at https://docs.google.com/document/d/1OLlPcLWorU7cSq8fJh8CXuzYVR_85w_SoHgoRdl6kKk/edit

    They claimed they adjusted for BMI.

    Reply
  40. Larry

    I usually sent your blog to my Kindle to read. The Kindle is B/W only. It would be helpful if you would indent quoted text.

    Reply
  41. Graybull

    Great Job……once again. My question is this……….

    As an analysis of a longer larger study about Cancer and Nutrition…….why the headlines about heart disease? Could it be that their own cancer – nutrition for vegetarians versus meat eaters may have not come out the way they desired….so better to massage data and make headlines with something else?

    Can you tell that I am a tad cynical?

    If you’re not cynical, you’re not paying attention.

    Reply

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