Study: No Red Meat?


anyone see the latest study on red meat. it was on the news yesterday and all over the internet… a huge study in toronto saying basically dont eat red meat…

so far i heard, no whole milk, no whole eggs, no red meat now, limited pork, no vitamins at all… then they say too much mercury in fish…

wtf are we suppose to eat?


thats all bullshit


Yep, totally bogus.


I didn’t read the study, but what all of these types of things do is something called an odds ratio. “If group A does x, but group B doesn’t, group A is some % more/less likely to get/develop L”. Since the sample size was so huge, even though the odds ratio was incredibly, laughably small (0.2), it was likely “significant” in stasistical terms. But not meaningful in clinical (read: real) terms.

I’m a scientist for real. Crap like this pisses me off. I agree with the link above that observational studies aren’t real science, and have limited usefulness. In studies like this there are infinite independent variables that need to be controlled for, and they only control for one (meat consumption). The reviewers and editor of the journal, the normally reputable Archives of Internal Medicine, should be ashamed they did not reject this article submission considering the definitive nature of the author’s view of the data (based off of the NYT article about it, views which I’m sure are present in the Discussion section of the actual published article).


So I got ahold of the article. It is a little down the page here (Red Meat Consumption and Mortality):

The reviewers and editor(s) are dipshits. Basically. The statistics they did are: 1) not explained well, and 2) very flawed.

On the top of the right column on page 2 of the article they discuss (I use that word lightly) how they separated out meat consumption from the other independent variables (BMI, smoking, etc… the dependent variable is mortality as determined by their ). They used a multivariate technique. They don’t describe the specifics of the technique they used (there is not just one way to do a MANOVA). The best I can tell they standardized the independent variables (other than meat consumption) to meat consumption. So, theoretically, they were calculating just the effect of meat consumption on mortality when they did their univariate analysis.

However, there is a BIG problem. They fail to account for the multicollinearity of the independent variables. If there is a high degree of multicollinearity even among two variables, then the whole thing falls apart unless you exclude those variables. Gee, could hypertension be highly correlated with high cholesterol? How about diabetes (yes/no) with activity level? How about activity with hypertension? I could go on, but you get the picture.

So, their conclusions are based off of INVALID statistics. If their research question was: “what factors/interactions of factors out of a,b,c,x,y,z are associated with mortality?” this study would be perfectly fine. But it was: “what is the quantitative relationship between red meat consumption and mortality?” It is impossible to get rid of the collinearity among the independent variables statistically. And even if you could deal, you still have other factors that relate to mortality that were not measured (mental health, for example). It was a very bad research question. This is what happens when you come up with a research question based on pre-existing data, instead of coming up the question first then designing the study.

They could have tried a factorial regression model that integrated all of the independent variables and the effect each one had individually, and all possible interactions of them interacting with each other, on mortality. But either they were too lazy, too dumb, or they knew if they did that, that one of the first IVs to drop out of the model (you eliminate variables/variable combinations from the model until only the ones that really effect the independent variable are left) would be red meat consumption. And there goes their headlines.

They did actually do a regression (bottom of page 2). But they did it among red meat and what they considered risk factors (cardiovascular mortality and cancer mortality) of death. In other words, meat consumption was the independent variable. This excludes every other factor in the universe that could have influenced cancer and cardiovascular mortality in the subjects.

At the end of the results they confess there were different numbers of people in each of the quintiles for total meat intake. With a non-even distribution of measurements along the x-axis (meat consumption) the data does not meet one of the requirements for doing a regression.

This was a very, very, very questionable study in terms of how the data was analyzed (I didn’t even get into the problems with how it was collected). I’m half tempted to write a letter to the editor. This is normally a good journal. Dumbass reviewers and editor(s). I wonder if they had a personal agenda they were trying to push and let bad science slide. Or maybe it wasn’t a blind review, and they let it go because the authors were from HHHaaaavvard.


Here’s the deal with fish. The fish of the highest tropic levels are the one’s most likely to have the highest levels of mercury. They’re the ones bio-accumulating the most.

Put simply, you’re shark and swordfish (the largest predators) are going to be the ones with the most mercury.

Tuna is good for the most part. Salmon is golden because even if they have mercury, the fish oil, nutrients, and quality protein from them will outweigh the risk.


For fish, if the selenium levels are higher than the mercury level, you’re ok. Selenium binds to the mercury. You could also eat almonds or other selenium-rich foods with your fish. Some of the only fish with higher mercury levels than selenium levels are swordfish and mako shark. Yellowfin tuna has a huge ratio of selenium to mercury; it actually protects you from mercury poisoning.

And I agree with the real scientists above. I eat tons of steak. I eat lots of eggs too. It’s yummy, real food and I feel great eating it. I’ve never had my numbers checked, but others who eat the same as me actually improve their blood cholesterol numbers and levels when following a paleo/primal eating style. I stay away from anything man-made or altered excessively by humans, chemicals, or lab processes.


Aren’t these types of study based along the lines of “out of 100 meat-eaters and 100 vegans, 2 meat-eaters won lottery prizes; therefore eating meat increases your chance of winning on the lottery”?


Here is an excellent takedown of that study: