Studies Conclude That Meat Will Kill You … And Save Your Life

I wasn’t planning to write another post this week because I’m busy at work and trying to make headway on the book Chareva and I are producing.  But a meat-and-mortality study showed up in my inbox, which prompted me to dig up a few more.  In my post dedicated to our vegetarian-zealot friends, I made the point that observational studies (the kind they cherry-pick to “prove” that meat will kill you) are unreliable and inconsistent.  Here are some studies that underscore that point.

From Meat consumption in relation to mortality from cardiovascular disease among Japanese men and women:

Moderate meat consumption, up to ~100 g/day, was not associated with increased mortality from ischemic heart disease, stroke or total cardiovascular disease among either gender.

What their data showed is that compared to men with the lowest meat intake, men with the highest meat intake had lower mortality rates from heart disease, a very slightly higher mortality rate from stroke, and the same mortality rate from all cardiovascular diseases combined.  Women who ate the most meat had a slightly higher rate of mortality from heart disease, but a lower mortality rate from stroke.

So here’s the story so far:  meat reduces heart-disease mortality in men, but raises it in women.  But the differences aren’t really significant either way.

From Red meat and poultry intakes and risk of total and cause-specific mortality:

Red meat intake was associated with increased risk of ischemic heart disease mortality and with decreased risk of hemorrhagic stroke mortality. There were suggestive inverse associations of poultry intake with risk of total and all-CVD mortality among men, but not among women.

Okay, then.  Red meat causes heart disease – for both men and women  —  but prevents strokes.  Poultry also prevents heart disease for men, but not for women.  Got it.

From Meat intake and mortality:

Regarding cause-specific mortality, men and women had elevated risks for cancer mortality for red and processed meat intakes. Furthermore, cardiovascular disease risk was elevated for men and women in the highest quintile of red and processed meat intakes. When comparing the highest with the lowest quintile of white meat intake, there was an inverse association for total mortality and cancer mortality, as well as all other deaths for both men and women.

Stop the presses!  Turns out red meat causes cancer and heart disease for both men and women after all.  Poultry, on the other hand, prevents cancer and a premature death – for both men and women.

From Red meat and processed meat consumption and all-cause mortality:

In a dose-response meta-analysis, consumption of processed meat and total red meat, but not unprocessed red meat, was statistically significantly positively associated with all-cause mortality in a nonlinear fashion.

Notice what they wrote about unprocessed red meat:  it’s not associated with higher all-cause mortality.  Now look at the conclusion:

These results indicate that high consumption of red meat, especially processed meat, may increase all-cause mortality.

Somehow red meat is still to blame, but especially processed meat.  The accurate statement (based on their data, anyway) would have been that only processed meat is the problem.

So the updated story: red meat and especially processed meat will kill you.

From Meat consumption and diet quality and mortality:

After multivariable adjustment, neither red and processed meat, nor white meat consumption were consistently associated with all-cause or cause-specific mortality. In men, white meat consumption tended to be inversely associated with total mortality, but there was no such association among women.

I see.  Red meat, white meat, and processed meat aren’t associated with all-cause mortality, or with mortality from any specific cause.  White meat prevents premature death among men, but not women.

So here’s what we know from observational studies:  Meat – especially red meat and most especially processed meat – will kill you.  However, meat (including red meat) prevents heart disease among men while having no effect on premature death.  Unfortunately, the same red meat causes heart disease among women — and among men, except for the men.

White meat prevents heart disease among men, but not women.  However, it prevents cancer and premature death for both men and women, but not women.

Oh, and all meats – red, white, processed and unprocessed – also have no effect on specific or all-cause mortality for anybody.

Got it?

That’s why observational studies are a joke – as are the people who cherry-pick them to (ahem) prove a point about meat and health.


34 thoughts on “Studies Conclude That Meat Will Kill You … And Save Your Life

  1. Mark

    So I’m guessing Vegan’s will eventually go down the path of the Pascal’s Wager way of thinking. Red meat may (not) kill you but aren’t you better off avoiding it, just in case. I commented on a vegan’s page the other day saying that they (vegans), by not eating animals and allowing them to proliferate, are contributing to global warming. No one took the bait unfortunately 🙁

  2. Becky

    That pretty well covers it. Not eating any meat at all is hazardous, too, apparently. So I think we should have a hamburger and a gluten-free beer, enjoy them enormously, and call it good.

  3. tw

    Bacon is good for you unless….
    you cook it without removing it from the environmentally friendly, Eco, plant based, disposable, compostable bag……..

  4. Firebird

    I just read a study that suggests that supplements like Gatorade are no better for you than eating fast food…but they don’t recommend you do that. Keep drinking that sugar laden Gatorade.

    1. j

      Ah sports drinks…it’s basically a soda without the fizz (and maybe some added vitamins and/or minerals)

      1. Firebird

        The late, great Steve Reeves drank the following during his training. Keep in mind he trained 2+ hours/day, 3X week.

        1/2 gallon water

        1/2 cup lemon juice

        2T honey

        Pinch of salt.

        Water and electrolytes and it was clean.

        1. j

          Ive made a similar recipe but I used a bit of sugar or apple juice instead of honey. Also used a salt alternative (ie lite salt) which contains a moderate amount of potassium along with the sodium. Be aware that there are health risks involved with potassium intake though.

  5. Linda

    Great post Tom! I’ve just forwarded this to a friend in the UK who suffers from a whopping fat phobia! He is forever sending me articles about observational studies that “prove” fat is bad for you. I’ve tried telling him about how useless observational studies are and it always falls on deaf ears. Maybe your post so much more well written than anything I could write will wake him up a bit.

  6. Laura

    I just watched the first 10 or so minutes of a documentary about the Tarahumara indians. At 10:10, a Dr. Miller says that they “turned the food pyramid on its head” and then describes their diet of starches and grains, with animal products at the top, as condiments. Isn’t the the ACTUAL food pyramid? WTH?

    I stopped watching at that point. I have no time for people who make up their facts as they go along.

  7. Jean Bush

    Notice they lump red meat and processed meat together like they do trans and saturated fats.

    And the uneducated public swallows all this. Dinner, anyone??

  8. Wenchypoo

    I have sent countless articles to Mark Sisson over the years about how people over 100 attribute their longevity to daily doses of bacon. One lady even caused Oscar Meyer to deliver a lifetime supply of bacon to her, and they even took her for a spin in the Weinermobile.

  9. Wenchypoo

    Meat – especially red meat and most especially processed meat – will kill you. However, meat (including red meat) prevents heart disease among men while having no effect on premature death. Unfortunately, the same red meat causes heart disease among women — and among men, except for the men.

    This is Ornish and his Physicians for Responsible Medicine gang talking and pandering the vegetarian/vegan crowd.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I make sure I don’t have an eating disorder by downing a big Mexican dinner with a couple of Negra Modelo beers on Saturday nights.

  10. David

    Have you happened to analyze this study yet?

    However, a new study published in JAMA Neurology detailed the link of cholesterol levels with amyloid plaque buildup that can cause Alzheimer’s disease.
    High levels of LDL (bad) and low levels of HDL (good) were associated with a bigger buildup of amyloid plaques in the brain. This marked the first time that cholesterol levels have been correlated to the buildup of amyloid.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Haven’t seen it, but cholesterol is associated with plenty of conditions it doesn’t actually cause.

      1. David

        Yeah, I was just curious if they twisted the study (like in your original post) to blame high LDL. (Another reason to prescribe a statin drug to lower LDL) There’s no drug to raise HDL, that I’m aware of.

          1. David

            Thanks for posting. This reminds me of the failed drug trials with leptin, I think Dr. Lustig wrote about it in “Fat Chance”.


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