Red meat is one of the most misunderstood and villainized of the foods we eat. For decades, it was perceived as one of the primary contributors to heart disease and stroke. Only recently has science proven that red meat doesn’t increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. While there is still some association between charred meat and cancer, most experts agree that red meat is nowhere near as unhealthy as we once perceived it to be.
A study published in the journal Gut examined dietary data for more than 46,000 men in 1986, and compared the data to reports of diverticulitis in 2011. The research found that the men who ate red meat more than 12 times per week had a higher chance of developing diverticulitis than men who only ate meat twice weekly. Perhaps there is a tenuous link between red meat consumption and gut health. According to the data collected, men who eat a lot of red meat (more than 12 times per week) tended to lead less healthy lifestyles: they smoked more, drank more alcohol, ate more fat, consumed less fiber, and did less exercise. Could it be that these lifestyle elements are the real cause of health problems and not red meat consumption?
But here’s an odd twist: there were no links found when processed red meat was used. Modern science has clearly established a link between processed meat and health problems, so it seems odd that the processed meat wouldn’t increase the chance of chronic constipation, bacterial infection, pain, and inflammation. So what gives?
Now, a new study is calling another health risk of red meat into question: diverticulitis. According to the Meat Advisory Panel, the findings of this study may do more to disprove the supposed dangers of red meat than prove it. According to a doctor on the Meat Advisory Panel, this may be another study where researchers are trying to establish a clear causal link between red meat and health problems that aren’t really there. If processed meat (which is higher in both salt and fat than fresh red meat) doesn’t cause diverticulitis, it seems a stretch to believe fresh red meat would cause problems. The authors of the study in question even stated in their paper, “Pathways through which red meat consumption may in?uence risk of diverticulitis are yet to be established.”
This study proves that a lot more research is needed to determine the exact relationship between red meat and human health. Critics of red meat will need to be much clearer in their scientific proof if they want to dispute the many, many well-established health benefits of red meat.
1. Yin Cao et al., “Meat intake and risk of diverticulitis among men,” Gut, doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2016-313082, published online 9 January 2017.
2. Panel Meat Advisory. “Meat Advisory Panel slams study linking red meat with diverticulitis.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 11 Jan. 2017. Web. 7 Feb. 2017.