Sunday, March 25, 2012

Harvard Meat Study: Will red meat kill you?

A lot of media outlets have hyped the Harvard study on red meat.  Many bloggers more qualified than me have already addressed this issue, so I won't bother going into too much detail here.  Let's just say that this is an observational study based on food frequency questionnaires updated every 4 years.  Can you remember exactly what you ate last month?  Do you think these people could?  And remember this is an observational study, which means that it's is only capable of showing an association, not causation.  If you don't know what I mean by that, watch this video.  Below are some links to other blogs addressing this study.

Denise Minger "The lead researcher Frank Hu claimed the study "provides clear evidence that regular consumption of red meat, especially processed meat, contributes substantially to premature death," despite the fact that the study is innately incapable of providing such evidence." 

Gary Taubes "every time in the past that these researchers had claimed that an association observed in their observational trials was a causal relationship, and that causal relationship had then been tested in experiment, the experiment had failed to confirm the causal interpretation — i.e., the folks from Harvard got it wrong. Not most times, but every time. No exception. Their batting average circa 2007, at least, was .000."

Peter Attia, MD "This is one irony of enormous observational epidemiology studies. Not only are they of little value, in a world of finite resources, they actually detracts from real science being done."

Zoe Harcombe "This study can at best suggest an observed relationship, or association. To make allegations about causation and risk is ignorant and erroneous."

Robb Wolf "Confounders galore. The higher meat consumption group tended to be overweight, smoked and was less active."
He also talks about this on his podcast.

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