#1: Correlation doesn’t equal causation.
Red meat intake in the population they looked at was associated with an increase in type 2 diabetes, but this doesn’t mean that red meat caused the disease.
People who have type 2 diabetes may eat more meat, but they are also more likely to drink alcohol, smoke, exercise less, and eat a less healthy diet overall. It’s impossible to take one aspect of diet in an observational study and claim that that one food is the driver of disease.
No mechanism has ever been proven to show red meat causes disease. People have been eating red meat for about 3.5 million years, and in fact, our red meat intake per capita has decreased since 1970.
Today in the US, 60% of calories are consumed in the form of ultra processed foods. So if red meat is responsible for an increase in type 2 diabetes, wouldn’t we see an increase in red meat intake as we’ve seen the rates of type 2 diabetes increase?
John Ioannidis of Stanford University asserts that observational research regarding nutrition is more likely to be false than true. This is primarily due to the bias of the person analyzing the data. When tested in clinical trials, observational research has only been found to be correct 0 – 20% of the time, meaning 80 – 100% of the time it’s wrong.
#2: Food frequency questionnaires are unreliable.
Additionally, it’s also been shown in multiple studies that people lie about their lifestyles. They’re much more likely to say they workout, less likely to report smoking and drinking, and they overall inflate what they think will make them look better on these questionnaires.
#3: Walter Willett’s undeclared conflicts of interest.
However, Walter Willett needs to also disclose his COIs and bias, and he does not.
Financial conflicts of interest:
COI due to Organizational Affiliations:
#4: Use your common sense.
Just because a study comes from a prestigious school, that doesn’t mean we should blindly trust it.
Red meat is an easy scapegoat right now. It’s being blamed for everything from cancer, heart disease and now type 2 diabetes, to climate change.
It’s far more likely that high calorie ultra-processed foods, which are “hyper-palatable” and stimulate us to overeat, yet are nutritionally poor, are the drivers of lifestyle related diseases like type 2 diabetes. In fact, a ketogenic diet (that includes red meat) was proven to reverse type 2 diabetes in a randomized controlled study.
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