Monday, March 19, 2012

Red Meat And Premature Mortality

Next week I'll be posting a recipe for kefta, a traditional lamb meatball from the Near East. It's a true specialty of the house, and a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. This week, however, I'm posting about the recent debate around red meat, to brace your enthusiasm for next week's recipe a bit.

Last week, an article was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, a prestigious journal if ever there was one, which presented data showing a link between red meat consumption and an increased risk of premature death from all causes, especially, but not exclusively cardiac disease and cancer. The study followed over 120,000 men and women for more than 25 years, and while it was strictly an observational study, when you get this many people together for this long a period of time, you get pretty sound data.

The article was a hit in the media last week, with just about every main news source reporting on it. I myself read the reports published by both the New York Times and the Guardian. It's caused a bit of a furor, and people are weighing in about it left and right, many of which are apologies for the meat-eaters of the world.

While these authors say that perhaps the effect isn't as strong as it seems once you fiddle with the numbers and make it look like a smaller problem than it is, or that it's not the meat that's at fault, it's the way the meat is grown, I think apologies aren't helping anything - let's not sugar-coat this one, folks. Occasional red meat is fine - more than fine, in fact, it can be transcendent when served well - but the daily consumption of meat, the almost unconscious consumption of meat, is not. Given that the researchers found such significant benefits simply by substituting poultry, fish, or vegetarian sources of protein, we need to be strongly emphasizing that people eat significantly less red meat.

Just some food for thought on your Monday.

(And contrary to what the National Pork Board says, pork is a red meat, the same as veal, beef or lamb.)