Is Red Meat Good For You?

A story of heart disease, cancer, and the fascinating complexity of scientific evidence

Pictured: Safe, according to science. Maybe Source: Pexels
Pictured: Yum Source: Pexels
Pictured: Healthy, apparently Source: Pexels

Spectacular Science

The new study that everyone is talking about is actually more than one piece of research — researchers from across the world came together and conducted a series of 5 systematic reviews of the evidence, looking at the effects of red meat on a wide variety of health issues.

The only thing we can say for sure is that red meat is very, very tasty Source: Pexels

Systematic Science

The reason that this new research differs so markedly from previous recommendations is largely to do with what a systematic review is and what it does. Essentially, these studies are a type of research where people comb through all of the publications on a single topic, and bring them together to form the most robust perspective on a subject. For example, you might look at every study of a medication for diabetes and conclude that it works very well even though individual trials aren’t convincing. If you conduct multiple systematic reviews on the same topic in a short space of time, there’ll be a lot of crossover in your results — there are only so many studies on each topic, after all.

Pictured: Potentially a source of bias for, say, vegans Source: Pexels
Pictured: Less risky (and tasty?) alternative to steak Source: Pexels

Endless Complexity

Everyone wants a take-home. We want a simple, easy phrase that can sum up a scientific question like “is red meat a horrible cancer-causing nightmare?” without too many long words and confusing qualifications.

Nutrition science is fiendishly complicated, and we’ll probably never know definitively whether red meat is good or bad for your health.

Quote me.

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