A study exonerates the red meat and processed of the reproaches of the WHO (but the critics show that the debate follows open)
In 2015, the WHO issued a controversial opinion on red and processed meat: it should move up the list of "potentially carcinogenic" foods. This decision, however, was heavily criticized, and not only by ribeye fans or hot dogs.
In fact, from the scientific field itself, the WHO was accused of promoting a "false alarm" by generating the feeling among street people that the correlation between colorectal cancer and meat consumption was equivalent to that of cancer. lung and tobacco use.
But the controversy died down without the WHO giving back its recommendation to reduce the consumption of red and processed meats. And so things have remained until the journal 'Annals of Internal Medicine' has published a meta-review of hundreds of studies (with millions of participants) conducted to date that concludes that, indeed, the WHO rushed into its decision .
"It will undoubtedly be controversial," says the editorial accompanying the academic paper, signed by 14 researchers, in anticipation of the controversy for contradicting the 'nutritional consensus'. "But it's based on the most extensive review to date of the data. Anyone who wants to question it will have trouble finding evidence to refute it."
But what are the controversial conclusions that this new study has reached?
- That there is insufficient evidence of the cause-effect relationship between consumption of these foods and increased mortality. They come to call it "statistically irrelevant".
- That, although this relationship is proven, the reduction of meat consumption does not have a relevant impact on our health.
- That it is not rigorous to establish dietary restrictions taking into account the above.
Based on all this, and after reviewing another series of articles on eating habits, the authors of the study in question concluded that most consumers of red and processed meats had already reduced their level of consumption of the same , and that there was insufficient evidence to insist that a further reduction would have positive consequences on their health.
No, the debate is not closed
Closed debate, then? Do we pardon and leave red and processed meat 'free'? Well, not so fast: here, too, voices have been raised from the academic sphere criticizing the study.
Miguel Ángel Martínez, professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Navarra, criticizes the study methodology published in 'Annals of Internal Medicine': it is commonly used to study the efficacy of drugs, but it is not equally valid in the field of nutrition.
But the most relevant criticisms have come from an institution as relevant as the Harvard University School of Public Health, whose researchers affirm that:
"It contradicts the large body of evidence indicating that increased consumption of red meat is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, and premature death."
Harvard scientists also criticize that the conclusions outlined above have been published in a relevant medical journal, since it can help "harm public health, that of patients and that of the planet."
In part, what is on the table is a debate on the very concept of nutritional research, and on the possibility of determining the effects of a single group of components on the human diet.
So ... have we reached any conclusion that will settle the controversy? Not remotely: we are where we were. It seems that further investigation will be required.
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