Yesterday I watched as news websites, social media, and my friends blew up a story that seemed a little ominous for animal agriculture. Perhaps you heard about it too? The headline: “Eating meat and cheese are just as bad for you as smoking!”
Those in the study actually concluded: “high levels of animal proteins cause increased levels of IGF-1 and possibly insulin in the body, which leads to higher mortality for people ages 50 to 65.”
But before you throw away your favorite meats and cheeses out with animal agriculture, it turns out the study might not be so sound proof. In fact, it actually had a few flaws that were so easy for scientists to point out, they managed to do it the same day the study came out.
In fact the conclusion that eating meat is just as bad as smoking is more like a bunch of smoke and mirrors:
By combining epidemiologic data in humans, preliminary mice studies, and laboratory cell studies, the University of Southern California researchers have “connected the dots” in a convoluted series of explanations which do not hang together as an evidence-based concept. The report, which was published earlier this week in Cell Metabolism, attempts to find a cause-and-effect relationship of dietary protein and cancer risk, but fails.
“The comparison with smoking is really unwarranted in terms of the relative risks and the certainty of the adverse effects of smoking,” says Tom Sanders, head of the Nutritional Sciences Research Division, King’s College London.
(Source: “Debunked: Cheeseburger as bad as smoking” Madelyn Fernstrom, TODAY Health and Diet Editor)
But even methodology behind the study was flawed. Remember, methodology is important — it dictates whether or not your study will be reliable and credible! The problem with this study:
The number of people selected from this very large database was relatively small — an estimated 6,000 — and almost no important descriptive information about the study group was provided other than their age and self-reported protein intake from all sources. Factors like obesity and BMI, smoking status, and socioeconomic status were not accounted for and clearly impact all kinds of health risks.
While the dietary protein intake was self-reported, there was no distinction between animal proteins that are healthy (fish or skinless chicken) or those containing high amounts of saturated fats (fatty red meats). This is a major concern, and limits the conclusions of the results.
Rather than be alarmed over protein, the takeaway should be: a diet containing high quality proteins, rich in fruits and vegetables, with a focus on plant-based eating is recommended and supported by science.
My problem with this study is that, yet again, we find a nutrition headline aimed at scaring people, not educating. Can you imagine if someone tried to eat according to all of the baloney information that is out there on the web today? These sensational messages get overblown and they are confusing to consumers. There needs to be a higher ethical standard that isn’t about fear.
I completely agree…so many headlines are ridiculous. It's undeniable that eating multiple servings (keeping in mind that many individual American portions of meat technically contain multiple servings) of red meat everyday leads to health effects but these are nowhere close to smoking. How ridiculous.