Letters to the Editor: Eating red meat is OK? Why that new study isn’t the final word

Red meat
A review of studies concluded that “low- or very-low certainty” evidence exists linking red meat consumption to any kind of disease.
(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

To the editor: The conclusion of the Annals of Internal Medicine report on red meat consumption — that the “possible absolute effects of red and processed meat consumption on cancer mortality and incidence are very small, and the certainty of evidence is low to very low” — does not inspire confidence to those who understand the standards of evidence-based studies.

As a meta-analysis (here a compendium of 73 articles) depending on dietary recall with memory bias and other confounders, any conclusion is weak at best compared to a much stronger double-blind study.

We already know from scientific studies that red meat is a probable carcinogen and impacts the gut flora and, therefore, the immune system adversely, while vegetarian protein alternatives do not. By eliminating red meat, one becomes more aware of the health and ethical consequences of food choices and, hopefully, will eliminate processed foods with excess carbohydrates and salt.


The Annals review is not the final arbiter in this discussion. The limitations of these studies must be better communicated.

Jerome P. Helman, M.D., Venice

The writer is a gastroenterologist specializing in nutrition.


To the editor: By referring to animals as “meat,” Nina Teicholz is engaging in cognitive dissonance or willful blindness.

Her comments on meat and science completely ignore the reality of what it means to have a living animal slaughtered for your appetite.

Shelley Butler, Chatsworth


To the editor: Once again, we are presented with dietary advice that goes against what we have been told previously. It is clear that primary investigators cannot agree on a “right” diet.

In the words of journalist and food researcher Michael Pollan, “eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” Meanwhile, I’m going for a walk.

Melissa Wogahn, Carlsbad


To the editor: I’m tired of all these dietary reversals. All I can say is that I’m anxiously awaiting news of the positive health benefits of pie-a-la-mode.

Sherry Scrivani, Irvine