Bacon is Out to Get You!!…Kevin Bacon that is.
You may have already read all the headlines this week. You have been warned. Your mortality is in danger. You need to be on the lookout…for Bacon.
Yes it’s true. Apparently Kevin Bacon is pissed and not going to take it anymore. Maybe it is all those degrees of separation people use that have finally made him snap.
Bacon has gone bad, like his role in “The River Wild” or “Hollow Man”. He is coming to….
(Someone passes me a note…)
Oh…Really? My bad.
Well folks it seems I made a silly mistake. It is not Kevin Bacon after all…it’s just red meat (and bacon) are now out to get you, once again.
What my “humorous” self is referring to is the sudden explosion of reports in the media that set the Internet on fire with front page headlines such as (Yes, they are real):
Study says too much red meat could kill us
More Red Meat, More Mortality
Red meat is blamed for one in 10 early deaths
This came about when researchers Monday from Harvard released a “study” (actually based on 2 large studies over 20 years) that showed results of increased red meat intake leading to higher risk of early death (one article referred to a higher mortality rate, but I’m pretty sure that number is 100% still and not up to 110%).
Now I was just going to let this “study” (term used loosely) pass by because I have covered this song and dance before, but apparently a lot of people are still concerned over it.
Many other really smart(er) people have already jumped on this with rebuttals as to why this study is not all it is made out to be. I highly suggest reading these if you really want to get into all the details. Here are the articles to check out:
- Zoe Hardcombe has a great analysis of the study here
- Denise Minger has a detailed guest post on Mark’s Daily Apple about it here
- Robb Wolf was minding his own business when the “Meatpocalypse” happened and wrote his thoughts here
- Gnolls does a fantastic breakdown of the issues with the observational science here
If you just want the quick CliffsNotes on it all, well it comes down to the old saying of “correlation does not imply causation“.
Much like the “observational” study about skipping breakfast and heart disease risks I covered here. There are most always many other factors to consider, and narrowing it down to one solitary “cause” is usually not appropriate.
In this case you have a study that uses categories (1-5) to rate the amount of red meat intake (lowest to highest). What you also will find with red meat intake is the following:
- The higher red meat groups also had higher calorie intake
- The higher red meat groups also had high rates of smoking/alcohol
- The higher red meat groups also moved/exercised less
So one could also say smoking, drinking, less exercise and higher calories also increase those same risks. Or just ignore all those and only blame the increase in red meat.
Funny enough the cholesterol numbers in the groups were lower as the red meat intake increased. So one could also come up with an observational attention grabbing headline “Lower cholesterol increases risk of early death!“.
As for those fun statistical high numbers of increased early deaths…well Denise Minger explains how you can make seemingly small numbers sound even scarier for better shock value:
Those numbers thrown around in the fear-mongering news clips—20% increased risk of death from all causes for processed meat and 13% increased risk of death from all causes for unprocessed meat—are classic examples of how even the most ho-hum findings can sound dramatic if you spin them the right way (and remember to attribute them to Hahhh-vard). If your risk of dying from a particular disease is 5% to start with, a “20% increased risk” only bumps you up to 6% in the grand scheme of things. That’s a lot less scary. Especially when delectable foods are involved.
Sadly it is not a great study to come to such a specific conclusion, especially considering that they considered hamburgers and other meat sandwiches as “unprocessed”.
It’s just another example of more observational findings and less real causation. Great for headlines in a world that revolves more around 24 hour news cycles to fill, but nothing more than that.
I think everyone can calm down a little and get back to realizing that the best course of action is probably still “moderate” intake of real “unprocessed” red meat, more “real foods” with higher nutrients (less processed foods), getting in some simple exercise (moving more) and all the other things we know that can possibly help our “longevity”.
Of course how you choose to eat (and what) is up to you, just make sure that you are using some independent critical thinking and accounting for all variables.
Red meat is not bad for you. Now blue-green meat, that’s bad for you! ~ Tommy Smothers;
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