Meat is Deadly. Yeah, right.

The food police have fired another salvo in the war against food choice.  This on is aimed at meat, with this ridiculous article in the LA times. The headline reads “All red meat is bad for you, new study says.” They include a link to the study, which is uncommon in this type of propaganda. The abstract makes it makes it incredibly easy to debunk.

…the pooled hazard ratio (HR) (95% CI) of total mortality for a 1-serving-per-day increase was 1.13 (1.07-1.20) for unprocessed red meat and 1.20 (1.15-1.24) for processed red meat. The corresponding HRs (95% CIs) were 1.18 (1.13-1.23) and 1.21 (1.13-1.31) for CVD mortality and 1.10 (1.06-1.14) and 1.16 (1.09-1.23) for cancer mortality.

A quick lesson may help those unfamiliar with epidemiology. The first number is the Risk Ratio. 1.13 means a 13% increase in risk. 1.0 would mean zero increase. The number in parentheses is the confidence interval (CI). It’s not exactly a margin of error, but works the same way. The 1.13 number might really be 1.07 or 1.20 or anything in between. If the CI includes 1.0 the results are not statistically significant.

In this study the results were barely statistically significant. Combine that with the fact it was based on surveys (a problematic approach that introduces recall bias) and the fact that any RR less than 2.0 is suspect because of the limitations of epidemiology, and the study proves….NOTHING. Nothing at all.

The article was honest enough to include this acknowledgment of the problems with basing studies on surveys:

Carol Koprowski, a professor of preventive medicine at USC’s Keck School of Medicine who wasn’t involved in the research, cautioned that it can be hard to draw specific conclusions from a study like this because there can be a lot of error in the way diet information is recorded in food frequency questionnaires, which ask subjects to remember past meals in sometimes grueling detail.

Of course, epidemiology never proves anything. It can’t, nor is it designed to. It simply provides an estimate of a probability. Smartenized people know estimates this small mean nothing. So do the professionals in the field:

“As a general rule of thumb, we are looking for a relative risk of 3 or more before accepting a paper for publication.” – Marcia Angell, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine”

“My basic rule is if the relative risk isn’t at least 3 or 4, forget it.” – Robert Temple, director of drug evaluation at the Food and Drug Administration.

“Relative risks of less than 2 are considered small and are usually difficult to interpret. Such increases may be due to chance, statistical bias, or the effect of confounding factors that are sometimes not evident.” – The National Cancer Institute

“An association is generally considered weak if the odds ratio [relative risk] is under 3.0 and particularly when it is under 2.0, as is the case in the relationship of ETS and lung cancer.” – Dr. Kabat, IAQC epidemiologist

Note that numbers in this study are even lower than the nonsense second-hand smoke numbers Nicotine Nannies have used to vilify and marginalize smokers.

Pay attention, folks. You’re going to see more and more and more of this kind of junk science as the Food Fascists try to prevent you from making your own decisions about what you eat.

More Info:

Learn how epidemiology works.


2 Comment(s)

  1. I don’t know why you anti-food-fascists keep stating that the “fascists” are trying to prevent us from making our own decisions. How have advisories on the risks of meat, or anything else, forcing any of us to give up what we like? The research bodies are strictly advisory: take the advice or leave it.

    harvey karten | Mar 17, 2012 | Reply

  2. You have to understand how nannies work, Harvey. First they make suggestions and recommendations. Then they start making laws and regulations, just small ones that often seem reasonable. Then they use the previous regulations to justify further regulations. And it never ends.

    The anti-smoker jihad started with the perfectly reasonable regulation that airplanes have smoking and non-smoking sections. Who could argue with that? If someone said this would lead to smoking being banned in bars and even in people’s homes they would have been considered nuts. And yet, that’s what happened.

    Michelle Obama has already strong-armed Mars into discontinuing king size candy bars and reducing the size of existing bars. The feds have conducted *armed* raids on the Amish and hippie food stores. So it’s already far beyond mere “suggestions.”

    Dave Hitt | Mar 17, 2012 | Reply

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