Nutrition Group: OK to Continue Red Meat Consumption

Here’s the full text study: Unprocessed Red Meat and Processed Meat Consumption: Dietary Guideline Recommendations From the Nutritional Recommendations (NutriRECS) Consortium (Published: Ann Intern Med. 2019. DOI: 10.7326/M19-1621)

In the same issue, there are several studies and an associated commentary: Meat Consumption and Health: Food for Thought by Aaron Carroll and Tiffany Doherty.

  • The recommendations from this study relate to the health effects of meat consumption.  Considerations of environmental impact or animal welfare did not bear on the recommendations.
  • “We developed the Nutritional Recommendations (NutriRECS) international consortium to produce rigorous evidence-based nutritional recommendations adhering to trustworthiness standards…”
  • “We suggest that individuals continue their current consumption of both unprocessed red meat and processed meat (both weak recommendations, low-certainty evidence).”
  • “Despite our findings from our assessment of intake studies versus dietary pattern studies suggesting that unprocessed red meat and processed meat are unlikely to be causal factors for adverse health outcomes (131416), this does not preclude the possibility that meat has a very small causal effect.”
  • “Other dietary guidelines and position statements suggest limiting consumption of red and processed meat because of the reported association with cancer (1244–46).”
  • “In terms of how to interpret our weak recommendation, it indicates that the panel believed that for the majority of individuals, the desirable effects (a potential lowered risk for cancer and cardiometabolic outcomes) associated with reducing meat consumption probably do not outweigh the undesirable effects (impact on quality of life, burden of modifying cultural and personal meal preparation and eating habits). The weak recommendation reflects the panel’s awareness that values and preferences differ widely, and that as a result, a minority of fully informed individuals will choose to reduce meat consumption.”**

A useful commentary from the NY Times: Eat less Red Meat, Scientists Said. Now Some Believe That Was Bad Advice.

An excerpt:

{According to the new report] If there are health benefits from eating less beef and pork, they are small, the researchers concluded. Indeed, the advantages are so faint that they can be discerned only when looking at large populations, the scientists said, and are not sufficient to tell individuals to change their meat-eating habits

Already they have been met with fierce criticism by public health researchers. The American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and other groups have savaged the findings…

Dr. Hu, of Harvard, in a commentary published online with his colleagues. Studies of red meat as a health hazard may have been problematic, he said, but the consistency of the conclusions over years gives them credibility…

Questions of personal health do not even begin to address the environmental degradation caused worldwide by intensive meat production. Meat and dairy are big contributors to climate change, with livestock production accounting for about 14.5 percent of the greenhouse gases that humans emit worldwide each year.

My take:  Though the title says it is ‘OK to Continue Red Meat Consumption’ –overall, my suspicion is that limiting red meat is probably good for one’s health, though the effect is probably small.

**After publication of these guidelines, it was subsequently revealed that lead author had not disclosed previous research ties to meat and food industry.  See Here: Scientist Who Discredited Meat Guidelines…

Related Blog Posts:

Disclaimer: These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications/diets (along with potential adverse effects) should be confirmed by prescribing physician/nutritionist.  This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition.

Red Meat for Dietary Cynics

A recent randomized study (L Albenberg et al. Gastroenterol 2019; 157: 128-36) examined whether a diet low in red or processed meats could reduce rates of Crohn’s disease (CD) flares.

Methods: Adults with CD were recruited into the FACES (Food and Crohn’s Disease Exacerbation Study) trial from 2013 to 2015. Participants were recruited from an internet-based cohort (n=15,600).  Eligible participants (consumed red meat at least once a week & in remission) were randomly assigned to high meat, n=118 (minimum of 2 servings per week) or low meat, n=96 (no more than 1 serving per month).  Outcomes were based on changes in sCDAI scores or need for treatment (new medication or surgery)

Key findings:

  • Any relapse occurred in 62% of participants in the high meat group compared to 42% in the low meat group.  This was not statistically significant.
  • At week 20, 18 participants in each arm had a stool calprotectin with the high meat group having a higher median: 74.5 mcg/g compared to 36.0 mcg/g (P=.13)
  • The high meat group did consume at least 2 servings per week in 98.5% of observed weeks compared to 18.8% of the low meat group.


  • Small number of diet participants
  • Study was not blinded and only a subset included more objective markers of response
  • Whether complete avoidance of red meat/processed meats would be more effective is unclear
  • In those in remission at baseline, it could take longer for the benefits of a dietary intervention to become evident

My take:  Limiting consumption of red and processed meats (particularly if meat is not lean) has been shown to have cardiovascular benefits.  While this study does not show a statistically-significant improvement in relapse rates in this cohort with Crohn’s disease, there are still strong arguments that a diet with increased fruits/vegetables and less red/processed meats would be beneficial.

Related Blog Posts:

Disclaimer: These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications/diets (along with potential adverse effects) should be confirmed by prescribing physician/nutritionist.  This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Is Red Meat More Likely to Cause High Cholesterol than White Meat?

A recent study -full text link: N Bergeron et al. Effects of red meat, white meat, and nonmeat protein sources on atherogenic lipoprotein measures in the context of low compared with high saturated fat intake: a randomized controlled trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, nqz035,

This study which randomized 177 patients to 4 week trials of each protein source: red meat, white meat, or non-meat protein found no significant differences in cholesterol levels.

From CNN:  White meat is just as bad for you as red beef when it comes to your cholesterol level, study says

An excerpt:

The red meat or white meat debate is a draw: Eating white meat, such as poultry, will have an identical effect on your cholesterol level as eating red beef, new research indicates.

The long-held belief that eating white meat is less harmful for your heart may still hold true, because there may be other effects from eating red meat that contribute to cardiovascular disease, said the University of California, San Francisco researchers. This needs to be explored in more detail, they added.
Non-meat proteins such as vegetables, dairy, and legumes, including beans, show the best cholesterol benefit, according to the new study published Tuesday in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
From Twitter -CDC Messaging on Dangers of Smoking While Pregnant:


Diet, Meat, and Colorectal Cancer

A recent study (RS Mehta et al. Gastroenterol 2017; 152: 1944 & summarized in editorial, 1821-23) examined the effects of a “Western” diet and a “prudent” diet on the risk of colorectal cancer (CRC). Data was derived from two large prospective cohorts involving more than 137,000 participants for up to 32 years; this equated to 3.6 million person-years of follow-up.

Key findings:

  • Those in the highest quartile of a Western dietary pattern had a 31% increased CRC risk (RR=1.31) compared to those in the lowest quartile. In this context, a Western diet was characterized by consumption of red and processed meats, high-fat dairy products (such as whole milk), refined grains, and desserts.
  • The prudent diet cohort, had a 14% reduced risk for those in the highest quartile compared to the lowest quartile. The ‘prudent’ diet included high intakes of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fish.

Based on this study and others, the editorial notes the following:

  • Limit red and processed meat consumption to 0.5 servings or 42 g/day of lean red meat
  • A more ‘prudent’ diet has health benefits beyond reduction of CRC, including lower cardiovascular disease mortality

Related blog post: Colon Cancer at Younger Ages

Piedmont Park, Atlanta

Tick Bites Can Lead to Allergy to Red Meat

From NBC News: Tick Bite Linked to Rise in Red Meat Allergies


A tick-related meat allergy has been quietly spreading across the southern and eastern U.S. over the past two decades, but in recent years the number of cases have steadily risen. A tick bite in some people can kick off a sensitivity to red meat that can result in symptoms such as itching, hives, swollen lips and breathing problems. The reaction can sometimes be life threatening. 

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