Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Red Meat Scare

"Red Meat will kill you." But wait for a month and red meat (beef) will be the saving grace. "Have a glass of wine at dinner, its good for your heart." Next month- "no wine!", "damn you, you alcoholic!" The same goes for butter. Fake chemical-tasting butter is better than butter, then "eat only margarine." Now- "wait, we made a mistake, margarine is bad for you, go back to butter."

There is some real scary undertones to this. Someone is lying to you to push a belief that will earn some corporation money somehow. When studies come out, you have to look at the data sampled. Unfortunatly you can't just go with it, because funded studies never have your best interest at heart. NEVER. Only your wallets. So I hope you can think for yourself and not be sheeped into recently studies, in particular the Harvard Study of red meat!

Lets discuss further:
The studies were done on people who were already obese, smoking, diabetic, and alcoholic. At this point, no matter what, anything could kill them. Like someone having AIDS and then saying the cause of death is the common cold. Yes, because at that point, your body is so run down, a simple sneeze will kill you. Do you now post a conclusion that the common cold is deadly or never sneeze again, it may be your last breath? This is not the cause. And the studies were done in correlation.

The meat was not eaten in isolation. But the conclusions where conversed in isolation. They were also eating fried rice, burger buns, margarine, ketchup and sodas.

A Grass-fed steak would not have delivered the same headlines and yet processed Hamburgers and hotdogs are considered meat in the study.

The study was on memory -and trusting what people think they remembered eating and recording it. It has been researched (correctly) that people who have high cholesterol miss-report their food intake.

How ridiculous is this study:
To quote MARK SISSON article: Will the butter defeat the margarine in their upcoming oil-wrestling contest? Will the asparagus discover who really killed her uncle’s stepdaughter’s boyfriend’s roommate’s poodle’s groomer?

Why it sucks has to do with the wholenature of these kinds of epidemiological studies, which are called observational studies, and are as different from real science as baseball is from thermodynamics. (Nothing against baseball, mind you, and nothing against thermodynamics. They’re just very different things.)

Robb Wolf's podcast take on this:

So the big takeaway from this stuff is that every two or three months it’s like, “Red meat will kill you.” Then when you look at the study, what these things are is they have people keep a food log and they record what they seem to remember eating. Then they do some statistical analysis on this stuff and inevitably, the people doing this statistical analysis are going in already with an axe to grind against red meat or saturated fat or whatever the soup de jure happens to be. So this is what the story was with this. This was a retrospective cohort study where they basically had people try to recall what they had eaten and the approximate amounts and they did it on like a month by month basis or something like that. 
Even saying that this is science is just at this point ridiculous. There was a food frequency questionnaire, there’s been a bunch of call to just do away with the food frequency questionnaire entirely and this thing is just the backbone of epidemiology because this stuff is cheap and it’s easy to kind of implement and it looks like you’re doing science, but it is just bullshit. I mean it is wanton one-ton bullshit.  At this point, anything like this should not be funded. We should be doing metabolic crossover designed clinical trials. We should not be dicking around with this stuff anymore. 
At this point, let’s put this stuff head to head either apply in sick populations, healthy population, whatever you want to do, but we need to quit screwing around with this stuff and actually run this stuff head to head. In the news piece, one of the most concerning features that popped up for me was that when people are looking at this study, they said, “Well, Robb, if people ate grass-fed meat, they would have a different result.” This is something that just makes me bleed from the ears. It’s like, “No, because the data that they collected is worthless. It’s like they collected data on how many birds flew over your house and that’s somehow correlated with breast, colon, prostate cancer. Even saying the correlation versus causation is spurious gives this study more weight than it deserves.
I’m kind of stumped at how to explain that more clearly. The data set that they collected is just worthless. I used in my write-up an example. There was a piece that some folks produced that basically said that increased starch intake was correlative with increased rates of breast cancer in cancer survivor. So these people had cancer once and then they were tracking via a food frequency questionnaire the amounts of protein carbohydrate and fat that the people are consuming and in the study interestingly they were being counseled to eat a vegan like plant based diet. They found some correlation between starch intake and increase cancer rates. Now, I would love to jump up and down on this thing and say, “Do the shitty science that these assholes did and say, ‘look at this, carbs cause cancer,’” but it’s the same spurious reasoning. They did a food frequency questionnaire and then when they did their data analysis, they we’re ascribing differences in cancer frequency to as little as three grams of starch per day in the different cohort.

I remember there was a study maybe four years ago where they were describing all these negative attributes to processed meat. One of the things that was in the process meat category was “pizza.” So the fact that sausage and pepperoni were on the pizza, when they got in and they did their data analysis on the whole thing, the total caloric content of that pizza was ascribed to meat. 
So this is the type of shit that passes off as science from our research institutions. I get that not everybody has a scientific background and stuff like that, but being an informed citizen, you should be at a point of being able to say, “Okay, what type of study was this thing? Was it a epidemiological food frequency questionnaire kind of gig or was this a metabolic ward clinical trial where every bit of food that people were eating was analyzed? Every bit of poop and urine that they created was analyzed? That starts getting into the gold standard when we’ve got some sort of metabolic ward crossover clinical trial thing. This other stuff is not worth lining a bird cage.

There’s definitely a need for the common person to be a bit more discerning. I think the most stunning part of these types of things is the level of irresponsibility I see from these guys. Not so much even doing really, really poorly structured studies, but drawing the conclusions that they do and then making them public. That to me, is the absolutely incredible part. How you can pull that off in what is considered to be like the gold standard of research publishing, peer reviewed studies all this bullshit it looks like if your peers can’t even tell you that that study is a complete waste of time. I don’t know what to do other than say, “You better read the whole thing and use a little bit of reason before you draw conclusions like that.”
This is where a ton of our research money goes into stuff like this. I had a back and forth with some folks who are in epidemiology and they were kind of defending this point and I’m pretty inflexible on this. Like the time for research like this is done. We should never fund another food frequency questionnaire study. All of that money should go into clinical trials, metabolic ward quality. 
They’re very expensive, they’re complex to run and that doesn’t matter if we want some answers other than your own personal experience which I tend to ascribe a lot of value to, but if you want some more global answers to these questions, that’s what we need to fund. We need to step up to the plate, do the big kid science and quit dicking around with this stuff. That’s kind of the long and the short of it. If this puts a bunch of poorly trained scientist out of work, I’m sorry. 

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