Meat consumption has increased considerably in recent years thanks to greater accessibility and increased purchasing levels. However, a few years ago the world’s population has been recommended to reduce their consumption systematically because of the harmful health effects.
Today one of the most prestigious medical journals (Annals of Internal Medicine) published an article proving that the evidence against them regarding their effect on people’s health (cancer and cardiovascular) is very weak. This could lead to the claim of red meats.
First, a distinction must be made between what are the red meats of white meats. Red meat is from animals such as cow, horse, bull or game that comes from game animals such as wild boar, deer, partridge and quail. On the other hand, within the group of white meats we find birds, chicken and turkey. Nutritionally, red meat is a mainly protein food, rich in minerals such as iron and zinc and vitamins such as B12.
They are widely consumed by athletes, for example, due to their high content of iron, essential mineral to avoid fatigue, and its protein content. This is because meat contains all kinds of amino acids that facilitate muscle recovery after exercise.
A few years ago, however, the disadvantages that its consumption could produce for human health have been studied, and more and more groups have adhered to the position of decreasing its consumption and even eliminating it altogether.
A change in the world’s vision of human nutrition could be taking place because an article was recently published by the journal Annals of Internal Medicine that challenges the supposed harmful health effects of red meat. It is the responsibility of a global consortium of 19 researchers (NutriRECS) from seven countries. The members of this Consortium were selected for their lack of conflicts of interest and their ability to assess the quality of scientific evidence.
They conducted a review of the content and quality of several studies involving subjects associated with red meat consumption. Thus, they used a widely accepted system to classify the scientific evidence known as Grade. This involves weighing the findings of randomly controlled dietary studies more than those from observational studies that commonly show a link between meat and disease.
This Grade system places greater value on findings from studies that are not funded by private interests. The main conclusion was that, in their review, the researchers did not find a statistically important association between meat consumption and the risk of heart disease, diabetes or cancer.
From the 80s onwards it has been recommended that the population reduce the consumption of red meats due to its supposed harmful effects on health, mainly cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Since then, the consumption of these products has been reduced and the consumption of refined carbohydrates has increased. The United States, for example, decreased its consumption by almost 28%. During the same period, however, other diseases such as diabetes and obesity have increased. Thus, many critics of the nutritional guidelines have argued that dietary guidelines and their prohibitions against meat are not based on the best scientific evidence.
American health and science journalist Nina Teicholz said that «the belief that red meat causes health problems has been based on weak and unreliable science.»
He added: «Unfortunately, our nutrition experts have become accustomed to relying on this kind of unreliable observational science, but now there is a move to move towards more robust and rigorous evidence.»
This paradigm shift is and will be a slow process and it must overcome many barriers: it will start as health and follow that of climate change.