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The Plate of the Red Death!

From The Telegraph: Red meat is blamed for one in 10 early deaths!

I note the rather oddly passive phrasing of that.

The Department of Health was last night urged to review its guidance on red meat after a study found that eating almost half the daily recommended amount can significantly increase the risk of dying early from cancer and heart disease.

Cancer and heart disease – wow! That’s a double whammy ain’t it? More seriously though seeing as those are Britain (indeed pretty much all the developed world’s) leading killers then that sounds both vague and scaremongering.

Small quantities of processed meat such as bacon, sausages or salami can increase the likelihood of dying early by a fifth, researchers from Harvard School of Medicine found. Eating steak increases the risk of early death by 12%.

Not to put it too finely Harvard, Cambridge, MA is not exactly cattle-country. I wonder what they think at the University of Texas?

Anyway note what I bolded. Eating how much steak? What a small quantities of bacon? As to things like salami, ham and pepperoni have they noted that, especially, in the UK they are very frequently eaten as pizza toppings and from my wide experience these outfits are very often run by immigrants from Muslim countries so they’re actually made from turkey usually.

Dr Frank Hu, co-author of the study, said: “Given the growing evidence that even modest amounts of red meat is associated with increased risk of chronic disease and premature death, 2.5 ounces (70 grams) per day seems generous. The bottom line is that we should make red meat only an occassional rather than regular part of our diet.”

Dr Hu has just raised the beef ration!

There no follows some guff and statistics but then this gem…

Scientists added that people who eat a diet high in red meat were also likely to be generally unhealthier because they were more likely to smoke, be overweight and not exercise.

So… their point is? Ye Gods almighty if that isn’t getting causality (generally considered important in science) arse over tit! I think the great astrophysicist Arthur Eddington had a dictum about not trusting an experimental result until proven by theory. He was being a bit tongue-in-cheek but there is a point to it.

And finally…

In an accompanying editorial Dr Dean Ornish, of the University of California, San Francisco, said that eating less red meat could also help tackle climate change.

You just knew that was coming didn’t you?


  1. Mac the Knife says:

    If only somebody would murder all these miserable. lying tax-leeching bumwads and make them into something spicy (preferably deep-fried), the world would be a brighter, happier place…

  2. Bod says:

    It’s all friggin’ hogwash.

    Over the last 2 months, I’ve adopted a VLC (very low carb) diet and have been paying my local lab to do blood and urine tests every two weeks. I don’t mind experimenting on myself, if only I can find a way to cut down on my visceral fat (which I’m tempted to agree DOES adversely affect cardiac health), which has defied a number of commercial weight-control programs.

    Inevitably, if you’re eating less carbs and you need to combat feelings of hunger, you have to eat something, so I’ve fallen back on nuts etc which save me from the 2.30PM ‘carb crash’ after lunch, but otherwise, it’s been meat, leafy vegetables and moderate amounts of fruit.

    Will I die as a result of eating a diet like this? Only time will tell.

    I found that taking a slightly less deferential attitude with my doctor has worked wonders – and while he’s very dubious of the benefits of a VLC diet, being thoroughly convinced that the Food Pyramid is the best way to go – I basically told him that he was welcome to see my test results and that naturally, I’d take his advice under consideration should anything change in my blood and endocrine chemistry. His partner in the practice is somewhat more open-minded on the experiment, so I’m not quite as pessimistic about the medical profession in general.

    Nutritional science is often just one step more ‘legitimate’ than climate science. Nobody knows for sure, and since the US Scientific community unleashed ‘no animal fats’ and then ‘no trans-fats either, sorry!’ it’s clear they don’t know their coccyx from their humerus.

    Regarding Ornish; his normal prescription is ‘eat almost no meat, dairy and processed sugar’, so for him, the quote he gave is quite moderate.

    My plan is to survive 20 years longer than an insurance actuary thinks I will.

  3. RAB says:

    Hmmm, so one tenth of deaths are down to eating too much red meat (bollocks!). So the real question should be… What are the other nine tenths down to?

    Where was this “Study” done? Why not try India next time, and see what they are dying of eh? I gather the source of hamburgers are sacred there.

  4. Mr Ecks says:


    Assuming you are not a medical man yourself, can you tell me please how does one get in touch with local labs to do blood work?. I would be happy to pay for some such blood tests but I didn’t know that there were any labs doing private work around (outside of BUPA type arrangements

  5. Bod says:

    Medical man – no – but one key factor I omitted in my earlier comment is that I’m in the US.

    In my case, I actually go down to my doctors’ office, get one of the nurse practitioners to draw 10cc and ship it off to any of a range of diagnosticians, although some firms have their own personnel who are qualified to take blood. I usually take the urine sample in the comfort of my own home.

    I’m going to start doing my own 10-test urinalysis and match it up and see how close I can get to the lab work. If I can replicate their results (or even get close), I can save myself a chunk of money by using these:

    These tests have all the simple stuff such as leucocytes, protein, glucose and ketone. They’re no substitute for a proper assay, but I’m primarily looking to see when my body starts burning fat (ketosis) which is when you start (allegedly) getting the benefits of a VLC diet.

    OK, I’l scale back on the evangelism now :)

  6. Stonyground says:

    The observation that those who eat a lot of red meat tend toward other unhealthy lifestyle choices suggests to me that the scientists were actually doing their job properly. The media, by reporting the scientific findings while omitting those important caveats were failing to do their job properly.

  7. Ian B says:

    Total bollocks.

    It’s worth noting that Dean Ornish is one of those quacks with a veneer of respectability that medicine has always been so good at harbouring. He claims he can reverse cancer and lengthen your telomeres(!) with diet and yoga. He also has an eerily plasticky face.

    My own view on this is that we make a mistake in believing we live in an “enlightened” and “scientific” era. There is no doubt a lot of good science being done, but we are still prey to mysticism, much of which masquerades as science in those disciplines in which it can be hard to tell the two apart.

    This had me thinking about Popper and Kuhn again. The problem with Popperianism is that it gives people a false sense of security; because it appears to legitimise science as value free, it fools people into thinking that if someone is Doing Science, then they are doing science, when they might not be. Popper might have offered a philosophical method, but as a consequence didn’t offer any objective way to detect the difference between good and bad actual scientific methodologies. This is at the heart of the CLimate Change debate really; the two sides disagree over whether science is actually being done or not by the methods currently in vogue (statistical analysis, modelling, etc). My own view is that much of what is currently considered to be Good Science will one day be recognised not to have been science at all; in the same way as we now disparage the predecessors of these researchers, who believed in suites of “nervous diseases” that we now know do not even exist, let alone which can be cured by the bizarre methods often deployed in, say, the Victorian era. Popper basically only offers reproducibility as a criterion; if i do the experiment, Nick tries it as well and gets the same result. Thus the subjective is vanquished by the objectivity supposedly provided by our replication of each others’ observations. That doesn’t actually work though; if we both make the same conceptual error, we’ve proved nothing.

    Brown rice lengthens your telomeres. I mean, Jesus wept and all that.

  8. Ian B says:

    Oh, also forgot to mention, the data came from the Junk Scientist’s favourite source, the Harvard Nurses Survey. I felt a minor flush of pride at guessing that would turn out to be the case before I’d even looked up the paper.

    Anyway, I’m often now to eat my weekly meat ration…

  9. Ian B says:

    Er, “off” not “often”. Dunno where that came from :(

  10. RAB says:

    Well I know it’s the Fail, and given their track record… one week tomato’s good, next sun dried carcenogenic, red wine good, then bad etc etc et bleedin cetera…–Why-thought-knew-healthy-food-wrong.html

    I eat as my family has always eaten, what I like when I like, but never too much. I drink and smoke an fully expect to die sometime, which is something the “Health experts” almost seem to try to deny.

    Can you imagine the deathbead scene…

    Congratulations mr Smith, by following our regime to the letter you have lived 20% more than you would have under your old ways!

    Thanks Doc! feeble high five, breaking a wrist, and expires….

    If I don’t live until I am at least 90, given my genes, then you can take it that I fell under a bus while pissed.

  11. Kevin Smith says:

    Live long and prosper peeps:

    Note the important sentence: The Healthy Eating Plate is based exclusively on the best available science and was not subjected to political and commercial pressures from food industry lobbyists.

  12. RAB says:

    Look what I’ve just found. Is there no end to this fuckwittery???

    How much does a NYU professor earn? Giss a Job! I can do that!! I can fuckin phone it in if you like, my carbon footprint would be tiny! Sheesh.

  13. Lynne says:

    I caught this garbage on my favourite comedy programme the news while eating my breakfast bacon butty yesterday morning. When the beeboids wheeled on their tame, simpering, female medical “expert” I quickly pressed the fuck off button on my remote. No more alarmist bollocks. Simples.

  14. Peter MacFarlane says:

    I propose an axiom that any MSM article starting with (or even containing) the phrase “scientists say…” should be ignored.

    Even if the work reported is real, valid, and interesting, the MSM will always pick out some minute thing that wasn’t even in the conclusions and make a sensationalist meal out of it.

  15. MrsNick says:

    “When the beeboids wheeled on their tame, simpering, female medical “expert” I quickly pressed the fuck off button on my remote.”

    I can see how being tame and simpering doesn’t inspire confidence but since when did anyone’s sex affect the validity of their arguments?

    Not that the report didn’t sound utter bollocks.

  16. Lynne says:

    Mrs Nick. I was merely making an observation. I would have been equally as scathing if the expert had been a smug male git. ;)

  17. MrsNick says:

    Fair does. Personally, I like to cheer myself up with the ‘We’re all doomed’ ramblings of Robert ‘Private Frazer’ Peston in the morning.

  18. The crap produced by alleged ‘newspapers’ has no statistical correlation with the actual content of the studies they report on. For example this particular study did not say “1 in 10 deaths” are due to red meat. To be fair neither does the article. What the study says is that eating red meat and highly processed meat in quantities above a given level increased your chance of dying by some % that varies for red meat and processed meats and for your gender. A very different statement.

    If you have a beef (sorry!) with the appalling standard of science reporting in the MSM that is one thing. If you don’t agree with the findings of a particular study, that is another. Your post has mixed up the two to a degree that the daily Fail would be proud of.

    The fact that you don’t like the findings is not enough. The fact that the findings may be supported by people you don’t like, isn’t enough. The fact that someone, not involved with the research has a record of saying things on other topics that you don’t like means bugger all…

    “Liking” (or not liking) anything isn’t science.

    You can’t do a double blind study in diet. All you can do is look for correlations like this. At the biomedical level you can then do more research. This is what happened with smoking, where the first evidence was only statistical but the link was confirmed later by other research.

    The Telegraph does have this gem:

    “It was found that for every serving of red meat – equivalent to 3 ounces (85 grams) – eaten each day there was an 18 per cent increased risk of dying from heart disease and a 10 per cent increased risk of dying from cancer.

    For each serving of processed meat, equivalent to two slices of bacon or one hot dog, the risk of dying from heart disease rose by a 21 per cent and from cancer by 16 per cent. ”

    Now, taking this literally, if on Monday I have a 10% risk of dying from heart disease and have red meat every day until Friday, by then it’s gone up to 19.4%! Now this is obviously crap and I have no idea what the actual study says.

    An area of the study that I would be concerned about is how far they have controlled for other variables like physical activity, smoking and alcohol consumption. If they can show that these findings hold good when controlling for those factors it means a hell of a lot more than if you can’t. There is nothing in the Telegraph report that says anything about this either way. That may be because the report doesn’t, or it may mean they don’t understand statistical inference either. My money is marginally on poor journalism, but it would be close since from what I’ve seen lots of doctors don’t understand statistics either.

  19. smokervoter says:

    All I know is that I seem to inherently love everything the twin bi-coastal beacons of ho-hum longevity in Cambridge and San Francisco hate. And I hate everything that they love. You like to-may-toes, and I like to-mah-toes, let’s call the whole thing off.

  20. formertory says:

    Straight Statistics doing their usual elegant job.

  21. That looks like a pretty comprehensive analysis and reinforces my perception that this is unthinking, scientifically ignorant journalists, (and even stupider sub-editors) reading far too much into a flawed study.

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