Seeing red

Sometimes you just have to feel bad for red meat.

Wherever there’s a negative health outcome in question, it always seems to be right there to take the fall. When, ultimately, red meat really is an innocent bystander that just happens to look guilty.

Take the latest bogus beef scare, for example. It seems a group of researchers in Singapore have “discovered” that eating a lot of red meat increases your risk of type 2 diabetes.

It’s an interesting point of investigation. Especially since there are about 10 different foods with suspicious ties to diabetes that I would have studied before I even gave red meat a sideways glance.

Nevertheless, the results appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Because if there’s a study that slams unconventional nutrition, why not publish it in one of the most influential medical journals in the world???

If I sound angry, it’s because I am. As you can imagine, I have quite a bit to say about this study.

So I’m just going to take you through the highlights, point by point. It’s the easiest way to point out these researchers’ ridiculous line of reasoning.

First, the findings: Increasing intake of red meat over a four-year period was linked with higher risk of type 2 diabetes. Results showed that subjects who increased their beef intake by more than half a serving a day had a 48 percent higher risk over the study period than subjects who didn’t.

Don’t ask me what “half a serving” of red meat is in this context. Or why any subjects who ate any red meat didn’t also have a higher risk of diabetes, if this really is the culprit.

Results also apparently showed that subjects who reduced their red meat intake by more than a half serving a day during the study period enjoyed a benefit. In the form of a 14 percent reduction in diabetes risk.

To which I say, so what? Maybe these people cut back on meat as part of a larger effort to get healthy. And that’s why their risk went down.

A study like this is worthless if we don’t know what else these subjects were doing. And for a prestigious medical journal to publish it is nothing short of scandalous.

Even the authors themselves admit that “the study was observational so causality cannot be inferred.” (In other words, none of these findings prove that red meat causes diabetes.)

This fact alone screams that the study should be ignored–and that it should never have been funded in the first place.

But that doesn’t stop these researchers from jumping to wild conclusions anyway. Among other things, they blame the saturated fat, cholesterol, nitrates, and high levels of sodium in meat for raising diabetes risk.

Wow. It’s just speculation after speculation here, isn’t it?

First off, there is no evidence that saturated fat by itself causes any diseases. And by now, you know how I feel about the sodium myth.

As for nitrates, well, people probably shouldn’t be eating them. But this study doesn’t conclude that nitrates increase diabetes risk. It claims that red meat does.

Once again, that’s where I have a problem.

Here’s a novel idea. Perhaps it’s the quality of supermarket meat that’s bad… and not the meat itself.

How about we feed our cows the food that they were meant to eat–grass. (You know, instead of stuffing them full of genetically modified grain with a side of pesticides, herbicides, growth hormones, and antibiotics.)

Then, perhaps, we would get the meat that we were meant to eat. (And, I should add, the type of meat you should be eating–grass-fed and free of hormones or antibiotics.)

The way we care for and feed our livestock changes the composition of their meat. It changes the fat content and the fatty acid composition. Not for the better, either. And this is where it all goes wrong.

The standard American diet (SAD) combines this adulterated saturated fat with a whole mess of sugar and carbohydrates. And yet these researchers think it’s meat that makes people sick?

Sometimes, all I can do is shake my head.

“Eating More Red Meat Associated With Increased Risk of Type-2 Diabetes.” JAMA Network. June 17, 2013.