Red Meat: Part of a Healthy Diet?

Red Meat Scare

There I was, minding my own business. Just getting my talk ready for PaleoFx, washing clothes and chasing Keystone around the house on my mobility breaks. Then…the Meatpocalypse began. It started benignly enough. A few folks posted links to Facebook and twitter about a new study claiming  “RED meat will kill you. DEAD.”

“Ah, this will blow over.” I thought.

But the terror grew. Bacon panics broke out in the civilized nations that consume this Nectar of the Swine. People lost the ability to think for themselves! Would the sun come up tomorrow? Bet your bottom dollar!…oh, wait. I was drifting into a coma, tired of the fight…tired of doing this…ALL…OVER…AGAIN. We’ve been down this road before, but a lie said frequently enough becomes truth, I so guess we need to dispel this myth. And I’m sure this will not be the last time.

Nutritional McCarthyism

Somewhere along the line “red meat” became the Red Scare of the nutritional world. It has saturated fat (gasp!) and comes from an animal! Case closed. Except that we can’t seem to hang much of anything on the saturated fat villain and if you put meat in a nutrition analyzer, you find it’s one of the most nutritious foods you can eat. The fact you can live on meat exclusively and indefinitely seems to get lost in the shuffle. And please, please do not bring up cultures that eat a lot of meat yet are quite healthy. That would require talking about “mechanisms” and doing legit metabolic ward studies. Crazy talk! I mean, things Like the Nurses Health Study already “showed” that the more meat and fat women ate the healthier they were, right? Folks really want to believe in this “meat=bad” idea, despite all the evidence to the contrary. Don’t fall for it.

Several people have already provided succinct, accurate criticism of this piece, so I do not want to belabor that part. I have bigger chicharrones to fry.  The Blog, Constantly Varried had the aptly titled Red Meat: Here we go again while CavemanDoctor had a more sciency title.

Please check those out but the take-aways are:

1-Nutrition data was collected via Food Frequency Questionnaires.  Yes, folks just had to remember what they thought they ate.

2-Confounders galore. The higher meat consumption group tended to be overweight, smoked and was less active. Apparently they did not get a Paleo cohort in that mix?

3-Correlation does not equal causation. Now…I hesitate to even include this and here is why: Some epidemiology CAN be done in such a way that we can find a correlation that is worth pursuing some kind of mechanistic validation. But this “study” is so poor, so lacking in rigor that the correlation/causation argument (although valid) gives this waste of paper more credibility than it deserves. I’ll make that clear by actually debunking a carbs=cancer piece in just a moment. But first I want to address something many folks have been quipping via Facebook and twitter: “Well, these results would be different if they used grass fed meat…”

Yosemite Sam captures my response to this reasoning perfectly:

Here is what folks need to understand, in crystal clarity: This study SUCKS. It was a waste of time and money, the study design is atrocious and it elucidates NOTHING that has not been (poorly) investigated previously! Folks, if you see “retrospective cohort” it should not be taken with a grain of salt, it should be taken with several hits of LSD so that you have a valid reason for perpetuating this fantasy. Think I’m being biased so I can “sell books promoting my pro-carnivorous position?” Well, check out this paper which claims to link starch with increased rates of recurrent breast cancer.

If you read through that piece you find that those folks are doing the SAME dumb “science” as in the current Red Meat Scare. They are ascribing differences in cancer rates with as little +/_ 3 grams of carbs PER DAY. From Food questionnaires! Now, I definitely lean towards the low carb side of things, I feel we have some nice potential mechanisms of causation with insulin resistance and cancer but it would be appalling to bandy this around as “proof” that starch causes cancer. Not because I do not think a mechanistic link exists here, but because this “study” is not worthy of lining a bird cage. I hope the similarities here are obvious and it also explains why I tend to not redistribute crap like this, even if I can spin it to my benefit given my biases. It’s not ethical, it’s not scientific. Said another way: we do not need to cheat to win this fight. We have plenty of evidence that low carb interventions crush low fat interventions, particularly in the sick and obese. So, even asking “would the outcomes be different with grass fed meat” is giving this study far more credit than it is due, Capiche? If we did the same study, used GF meat and found “great results” it would mean little as the data collection and basic study design are fundamentally broken. Similar to the starch piece, we can’t pick and choose what we want to validate.

Leave it to the Media

This CNN piece actually has a bit of sanity at the end of the article in which they reference Staffan Lindeberg.  In stark contrast to this piece from Harvard in which the seemingly ever clueless Walter Willet can’t connect the dots to our ancestral story. The piece mentions our hunter gatherer past, recommends a diet of fruit, roots, meat and veggies, vilifies soda and fruit juice…but then the implementation looks little like the supposed prescription.

Time for a change

It’s time we went beyond protein, carbs and fat. It’s time we pit several competing dietary paradigms against each other in a metabolic ward, cross-over designed clinical trail. American Heart Association recommended diet vs vegan, vs Paleo. The time of shuffling the deck of cards trying to find a magic protein, carb, fat ratio needs to stop. That studies like the Red Meat and starch= cancer pieces get funding is an abomination. We need clinical trails and investigations of mechanism.

I’ll leave you with a few papers that build on the idea that Lipopolysacharide (LPS) is a player in metabolic derangement. In the first paper we see the effect of LPS on innate immunity via the SOC-3 gen.

The second paper looks at the effects of SOC-3 on leptin sensitivity. Here folks, we have a testable mechanism that seems to tie together quite a number of issues, from autoimmunity to metabolic derangement.

I know this stuff seems complex and some of it certainly is, but the main thing to consider in all this is “what type of study was performed?” The ketosis piece I linked to was a clinical intervention in obese humans. That’s solid stuff. These retrospective cohort “studies” are a waste of time and honestly, it’s how the dominant paradigm fights to maintain control of the conversation. They generate, cheap, easily manipulated tripe in which the data can be bent to meet the desired conclusion.

See y’all at PaleoFX.

Red Meat






Categories: Healthcare, Paleo/Low Carb


Robb Wolf’s 30 Day Paleo Transformation

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  1. says

    You realize they are actually using the Nurses Health Study to “prove” that red meat is bad? The data that they use actually shows that people who eat the least amount of red meat are more likely to suffer events than those who eat a moderate amount. The people in the group who eat the lowest amount have the lowest body mass index, drink the least, smoke the least, etc. Yet they have a higher chance of events than those who eat a moderate amount.

  2. Sarah Beth says

    The first thing I thought when I read the newest red meat is the devil story was “I imagine those folks had a pretty typical unhealthy diet.” Since the prevailing health “wisdom” is red meat is bad for you, people who eat less red meat are likely to also be people who strive to be fit, maintain a normal weight, avoid smoking, etc.

    Even knowing that I am glad it woke up to this post today. I am easily discouraged and derailed.

  3. Lindsay says

    This is a good one to highlight every time one of these
    “meat scare” studies comes out…because, oh, there will be more. Also, in your rush to get these out to the frightened masses clutching their bacon while preparing your speech and chasing Keystone, you linked to the WHI, but the text actually says “Nurse’s Health Study.” :)

  4. Trevor says

    How does it feel to be the voice of reason Robb?

    This whole thing is shameful and anyones who believes any of this crap is doing the rest of us a favor by naturally selecting themselves out of the equation.

    Just as a sidenote: You could totally pull of Hauser in the next Total Recall movie.

  5. Kris says

    Speaking as someone who is an epidemiologist and is writing a grant to do a randomized control trial for paleo diet and cancer endpoints-please stop the wholesale dismissal of any study that’s not a randomized control study for diet. These types of studies really aren’t meant to give the definitive answer on diet or diet composition, but rather provide evidence to later fund these incredibly expensive randomized control trials.

    What’s really needed is better health reporting, and better scientific understanding from the public.

  6. James says

    These studies are great! More meat for us!

    So, uh, what does “retrospective cohort” mean? Apparently it means a study sucks, but what does it mean on a mechanistic level?

    Anyhow, you can get better nutrition advice from Chris Rock:

    “”People are starving all over the world, what do you mean “red meat’ll kill you?” Don’t eat no red meat? No, don’t eat no GREEN meat… if you’re one of the chosen few people in the world lucky enough to get your hands on a steak, bite the shit out of it!””

    • Richard Feinman says

      One problem is that nobody believes this stuff which makes them suspicious of real studies like smoking — I calculate that HSPH causes an extra 30, 000 deaths a year (just kidding; that’s the kin of dumb statistics they always come up with)… And of course the price of meat keeps going up.

  7. says


    Thanks for the shout-out. Please look at Dean Ornish’s response:

    It’s full of comments backed by no tangible evidence (ignoring all the data that clearly flies in the face of his push for everyone to become vegetarian), and yes he even talks about global warming in it, and yes he quotes his own article full of false conclusions. While this kinda stuff is common, this has gone above and beyond.

    This came out same day and was obviously orchestrated through the archives of internal medicine (which is a major journal too). Unfortunately this says a lot about science and modern medicine…

  8. says

    In addition to these excellent points, there are more esoteric (but important!) reasons to be careful when reading this study.

    Anybody a fan of biostats here? **chirp chirp…crickets** Anyway, when making scientific inferences from large retrospective studies, the p-value used is likely NOT the best way to evaluate the evidence! Steve Goodman, professor of biostats, oncology, and other stuff at Johns Hopkins makes that point in this landmark paper:

    I’d hypothesize that using p-values without the context of all other results (i.e. not using Bayesian analyses) plus publication bias (see the Ioannidis paper about most medical findings being wrong) equals a recipe for public health disaster.

    Yay biostats! Boo simplistic interpretations by the news media.

  9. says

    So Robb, you mean we shouldn’t believe this study? LOL! As I started to read the study reports around the internet, I soon realized the study criteria were faulty. Plus, just like you said, they weren’t telling us exactly what they ate. For all we know they could have been fast food addicts. Loved reading this article though. :)

  10. Amy B. says

    Damn, Robb. If you weren’t already married…

    Nicki’s a lucky gal!!

    “Folks, if you see “retrospective cohort” it should not be taken with a grain of salt, it should be taken with several hits of LSD so that you have a valid reason for perpetuating this fantasy.”

    “Not because I do not think a mechanistic link exists here, but because this “study” is not worthy of lining a bird cage. I hope the similarities here are obvious and it also explains why I tend to not redistribute crap like this, even if I can spin it to my benefit given my biases. It’s not ethical, it’s not scientific.”

    • Amy B. says

      Wanted to add:

      I’m taking a class this semester in evidence-based medicine. Specifically, it’s about how to read and *critically evaluate* scientific papers to see if they actually have any worthwhile takeaway messages or are, as you said, better suited for lining a birdcage. I thought it was gonna be really boring, but I think it’s going to be really useful. The storm of controversy this ridiculous “study” has generated is proof that most laypeople (and, sadly, probably a ton of docs and other allied health professionals) have no freaking clue how to understand, oh, I dunno…materials and methods, and then evaluate whether the data show what the authors *claim* they show.

      It’s even better when entire news stories get created from abstracts. (i.e. RED MEAT WILL KILL YOU!! Seitan for everyone!)

  11. Ian says

    “And the Lord said unto his people: you are advanced, unique snowflakes who are not meant to hunt in the manner that all other creatures do. If you must consume the flesh of a cuddle-y farm friend, feed it genetically modified franken-grains, inject it with with a slew of synthesized goodies, pack it tightly amongst it’s special brethren, accommodate it properly with lackluster roaming territory and ankle-deep fecal matter, send it away to the Vila de Factory of Processed Horrors upon its death, remove every trace of fat from it’s remains and consume only the boneless, skinless, artificially enhanced, extra-lean-arterycloggingsaturatedfat-free-meat.

    . . . or hey, better yet, raise the animal humanely and eat the whole damn thing. Yeah, that’ll probably work out better.”

  12. Ricardo says

    According to these scientists, humanity became extinct about two and a half million years ago, when we came down from the trees and gave up a mostly frugivorous diet in favour of a mostly carnivorous one. As for the North American Plain Indians (just to give one example of hunter-gatherers) who lived mostly of buffalo meat? Well, they never existed. 

  13. says

    Well Rob, I just about didn’t read this article, just because I am lazy and on the same page already, but I was skimming over it anyway, when “the terror grew. Bacon panics broke out” sucked me right in…lol. It is exciting to read anything you write, even if I already have the same feeling and, it is like beating a dead fish.

    Cheers, thanks for brightening up my day.

  14. Michael says

    I’m gonna have to get a TV or start reading the common news sites, because the first I’ve heard of all these Meat-Scare stories have been from my typical retinue of paleo sites 😛 Or, maybe I’m better off without the TV…

  15. says

    Am I wrong in thinking that most stories that make it in to the newspaper are there for a specific reason? I don’t want to look like I am all about conspiracy theories however it is reasonable to believe that if it took money to write and publish the study that the people who paid for it might want some publicity. Would it be wrong to think that maybe, just maybe, there are biases present that would lead to people jumping all over a story like this? There are some very strange things that have dictated the way healthcare and health science have evolved and they mostly involved control issues (look up the history of Graham Crackers for a laugh) and $$$$. A major turning point in health sciences was the Flexner Report (look it up – it changed the way medicine was taught and practiced in the United States and Canada to focus primarily on pharmaceuticals and it was funded by the Rockefeller and Carnegie foundations). Not much has changed in the past 100 years with regards to the way that people in power will try to control information for the propagation of control – the difference now is that people such as Robb and Mark Sisson have a platform that is fast enough to get the truth out there to the masses without classic interference.
    Robb, thank you for being the voice of reason (even if you never thought you would be)! It is going to be a continuously annoying battle for you and others who are with you. You are spot on with the comments in the podcast about people becoming adversarial to etch out their own space so that they can benefit (profit). I am slowly entering a similar battle within the healthcare system in Ontario so I have some limited insight in to your experience. The ability to seek the truth is rarely exercised – keep being a shining example!

  16. RS says

    For anyone who is interested, the actual questionnaire can be found here:

    It actually asks folks to indicate an average number of salt “shakes” used at the table over the past year. It is laughable to think that something like this could be assumed to provide reliable data.

    I also enjoyed this gem: “Please try to average your seasonal use of foods over the entire year. For example, if a food such as cantaloupe is
    eaten 4 times a week during the approximate 3 months that it is in season, then the average use would be once per week.”


    Alas, we must continue to fight the good fight… with our spears and flint tools.

  17. says

    I KNOW anecdotal evidence is NOT science but I want A (I mean ONE) testimonial from someone that went from paleo to packaged/processed foods and everything got better. I want to hear one!

  18. Anna211 says

    I almost agree & I would add that red meat can be bad for you- if it is factory farmed- the steroids, antibiotics, arsenic and other dangerous chemicals have a terrible impact on human health.

    Studies should really make a distinction between grass fed & finished meat that is pastured & butchered in a separate facility (not the same one where factory farm meat is butchered; a separate facility is needed to avoid contamination) and the awful factory farmed meats.

    • Yasshira Lopez says

      I totally agree with you. I have made the choice not to eat red meat, and have cut down on my meat intake period, just because grass fed meat is out of my price range. There is a difference and maybe there should be more studies that show the difference.

    • says

      This is where I, as a relative newcomer to Paleo, get in trouble. I don’t always have grass fed meat available. I know I can order it on the internet, but that’s a hassle for day to day living. So, am I, and others similarly situated, better off to leave meat alone except when grass fed is available and thus avoid the steroids, hormones, etc. Or should “store bought” meat still be consumed, even if in reduced quantities. I’m sure this is explained, ad nauseum, somewhere so I apologize if I have been redundant.

  19. Steven Chicoine says

    Not to mention these studies looked at nurses who that have high-stress jobs and have to work odd amounts of hours that screw up their sleep cycle… I wonder if these factors could have a drastic difference on how food consumption effects their health…

  20. ALEX says

    I can honestly say I’ve never had “redmeat” , I’ve had beef , lamb, goat,chicken,pork,duck,moose,deer, eel ,salmon,halibut. But not, redmeat I couldn’t find it in any stores , I couldn’t find and animals even colloquially called Red’s. If anyone one knows where to obtain redmeat please tell me.

  21. paleoslayer says

    here’s another study (from 2010) from one of the same authors of this study. .

    “Major Dietary Protein Sources and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Women”

    Concluson: These data suggest that high red meat intake increases risk of CHD and that CHD risk may be reduced importantly by shifting sources of protein in the US diet.

    surprise surprise. So it looks like every couple of years or so they recycle this info, put it out there into the public consciousness to reinforce these dubious claims to the public.

  22. James Joice says

    Rob, you clearly don’t know anything about confounders. The study clearly controls for other variables. If you look at comment (b) to Table 3 (I’m sure you did before writing the above post), you’ll see how it is done. They had both cross sectional (i.e. many people) AND time data (periods/cohorts). There is no issue of confounders here.

    I’m thinking maybe the Paleo and Atkinson gurus are starting to worry about their livelihood…

  23. Jason in Chiba says


    Robb comes to the rescue, saying exactly what I told my friends after they posted “Red Meat increases risk of death” on my facebook feed. Study’s worth shit, they have all the evidence they need to do some real comparative clinical studies and epidemiological studies don’t prove anything. A study like this wouldn’t show anything new, even if everyone who ate more meat in them died.

    Couldn’t agree with you more, in other words. Thanks again.


  24. Scott says


    The Nurses Study you link to does not show that more meat and fat made women healthier. It just failed to prove its hypothesis that a low fat diet was more healthy. It didn’t prove the inverse of the hypothesis. Unless I’m missing something.

    The article also references a Nurses Study II that seems to indicate that read meat and high fat dairy are bad for women. “In the Nurses’ Health Study II we have seen that women who consume high amounts of red meat and high-fat dairy foods during their early adult years are at increased risk of developing breast cancer.”

    What am I missing?

    Thanks for your hard work.


    • Jacob says

      I was wondering the same thing. The Nurses Health Study (I and II) seems to show an increased risk of cancer with increased meat consumption. And it’s the same type of study as the one being criticized. I’m not sure how it can be used to support the paleo position…or any position for that matter.

  25. Cindy says


    GREAT idea on competing Paleolithic vs Vegan vs Food Pyramid! How about next year’s season of The Biggest Loser? We could all watch!

    • pj says

      but what does “mostly” mean- weight volume, number of items? Kind of vague really. Nutritionally could be lacking.

  26. jf says

    Cripes, you carnivores cry a lot. Keep eating how you want to eat and going through the overwhelming moral and metabolic gymnastics required to justify it. It’s a free country, and it’s your lifespan, after all.

    • Maj Woockman says

      Oh good grief! Moral and mental gymnastics? Where the hell do hippies come up with this stuff. You obviously have never lived on a farm. Milk cows and raise pigs for 20 years before you go all holy on me. Chase a cow who jumps the fence in the middle of the night through 20 acres of corn and see if you don’t want to kill and eat it. I’ll name my next fattened steer jf.

    • Janeway says

      Gosh, I haven’t noticed that I require any moral or metabolic gymnastics to justify eating meat, and I’ve been crying a lot less since I embraced my inner carnivore. About a month into eating Paleo, all the time I had previously spent coughing, blowing my nose and swallowing NSAIDS to relieve joint pain was now devoted to other, more pleasant things. That was 3 years ago. 20 lbs. lighter, fitter, more energetic, lower cholesterol…better in every way.

      Thankfully, you’re right in two respects: it is a free country (for now) and it is my lifespan, after all. Could be yours, too.

  27. pj says

    In a way this is a good thing, perhaps a few large industrial feed lots will close down and open the way for good grass fed products to take their place, just saying

  28. says

    Thanks for adding your spin, Rob.

    The main problem is that we already know the source data is bunk, because there’s been another study dedicated just to figuring out how accurate (or inaccurate) those FFQs were! I wrote a long article which explains the problems and limitations of observational studies in general, using “Red Meat Consumption And Mortality” as a starting point, and I feel it’s valuable knowledge to arm ourselves with for all the future nutrition scare stories that we know are coming.


    • paleoslayer says

      Hey JS, I recently discovered your site, tremendous source of info and v well written. Going thru the index now.

  29. Maj Woockman says

    A little honest peer review would probably solve our problem here. These studies are published like tabloid stories so folks like doctor Oz can continue to dazzle the T.V. watching public who unfortunately aren’t getting any thinner or healthier thanks to their advice.

    Rob think about doing a live talk at military base or two. You have a bigger following than you would think.

  30. says

    I appreciate the write-up and responses. I did want to point out that the study “controlled for” the smoking, diabetes, obesity, etc. A statistician should chime in here but my understanding is that this removes those affects from the outcome. Essentially, this publication is stating those co-morbidities don’t matter as they were washed out and they still get the same conclusion.

    It will take a prospective, long term trial to sort this out as a few folks have pointed out.

    I’ve only been at this 10 days but feel good, am down 7# to 163 and about an inch on the waist. Slowly losing carb cravings, too.

  31. Jess Quick says

    I read that article… it didn’t include what grains the participants ate and noticed that they suggested we eat whole grains instead of red meat. That’s when I knew it was junk science we needed to ignore.

  32. dan says

    Smoking and sedentary lifestyle are the two most unarguable contributors to heart disease and total mortality. Any study not adequately accounting for lots these factors is not worth even commenting on. Certainly worth lots headlines to scare people though.

  33. says

    Epidemiology can be interesting when you get odds ratios of 14, in this case for fatty liver and cardiovascular disease in women (after adjustments). Odds ratios of 14 are useful, 1.1 or whatever are just nothing.

    Speaking of which, saturated fat is protective against fatty liver when researchers try to poison rats

    In other news saturated fat is negatively associated with atherosclerosis.

    I wonder what Walter Willett’s group has to say about this.

    People say RCT are too expensive yet money is being wasted on the red meat study. It would seem logical to shift where the money goes into more RCT. Maybe the NIH and others are more concerned about the unemployment rate.

  34. Christopher says

    When I started getting emails and seeing all this stuff “here we go again” is exactly what I thought as well.
    I will say though, I do think red meat is dangerous. I ate a dinner of pork neck tonight, cooked in a tagine, that was so good it almost killed me :)

  35. Malin says

    I know that absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence, but I can’t get away from the basic idea of the paleo diet – if red meat was inherently bad for you because it causes heart disease and cancer – then there would be more evidence of this from people who eat paleo/a hunter-gatherer diet. This to me is my food paradigm. The onus is on the other guy to prove otherwise. I only had time to do a little digging when this story broke but pretty much decided quickly that this study isn’t the evidence to break the paradigm.

    I think I’ll carry on eating mostly meat and veg. Might mix it up with some fish, or the odd bit of fruit or some nuts. So far it’s been working for me. I’m leaner, my digestion is better, my body has quietly but quickly been able to adapt to the hormone changes from HRT/testosterone. I still have stress problems to fix, but this diet has been serving me well. Roll on my blood tests in a few weeks.

  36. ilmuller says

    … 11 months “almost” Paleo and each day feeling better. After I started eating eggs, meat, no processed food, no grains,very little sugar/fruits and when it comes to dairy: only butter, cream for my coffee and sometimes eiscream made out of really cream and a lot …really a lot of veggies and my health is each day getting better. I wrote everything down to find out where was my problem…. when I got hungry and so on…. I found out that if I eat 2 eggs in the morning with 200-300g veggies; 130g beef or 150g chicken or 160g Salmon with 300g veggies, evening again some protein and again around 200-300g 1 fruit a day…. and I am OK. I do not use oil for cooking (but ghee); only olive oil extra virgen for the veggies and after they are steamed. Interesting though is that when I eat another kind of fisch (white meat) I get sooner hungry….rs rs rs. I had a Blood exam before starting and after 6 months :-) my doc was amazed and happy to see the results. If I am in the right path…I do not know but I am leaner, more healthy and more happy now than before (before 25 BMI, constipation, immunsystem down to the floor, allergies also skin problems and headaches a lot of headaches. Before I ate a lot of grains, a lot of fruits,almost no fat, very lean meat, almost no eggs (because of cholesterol)…and had a lot of cravings…. was always hungry…. So there must be something good in this way of eating!!!! Thank you for all information Robb, Mark Sisson, Melissa and the many others…. :-)

  37. says

    The biggest problem is poor science meeting media attention. The media will take a crappy research project that has sex appeal to the public eye and push it as a major story. Of course as the general public we must believe everything that is on the news because they are the end all be al of public knowledge. Anytime you show someone a study showing the dangers of grain products people will question it all day long. How long is it going to take western medicine to realize that gluten intolerance is a real thing? Seems celiac’s disease takes doctors years and years to figure out in people. But the second some survey study tells them not to eat meat people go off on a tizzy. The Nurse’s Health Study also states that switching from carbs to animal protein may decrease the risk of heart disease ( Robb hit the nail on the head, we need a study comparing total diets to one another.

  38. DrKellyann says

    Really really fantastic post! You always manage to find the funny!
    My hope is that this excellent and content rich post will calm the “meataphobia” On a personal note – I practice Functional Medicine and I have never seen a non-meat eating patient healthier than a meat eating patient in over 15 years of practice. I guess I’ll have to wait on that one. Thats all the “research’ I need.

  39. Cheryl White says

    Say, didn’t Davy Jones die of a sudden heart attack a couple of weeks ago? What was it he ate? Oh, right…he was a strict vegetarian. I’m sure this study was a big relief to his family. At least the red meat didn’t kill him!

  40. Ed says


    I’ve been following “Paleo” since I was about 14 or 15 (now 18). Protein Power was the first real diet book I ever read, and still one of the best in my opinion, followed later by Cordain’s ‘Pleo Diet’. Never really liked the way Coradain presented the case (I mean really a max of six eggs a week? That’s barely enough for a decent omelette!) too much observational stuff and also “our paleolithic ancestors would/woudn’t have had this available, therefore it’s acceptable/unacceptable”.
    I had feared you’d somewhat gone down that road and confirmation bias, etc. But in the past six months or so (maybe even year) you come back, better than ever. This article is one of your best, holding yourself up to higher standards is how you get better, progress and in this case further the cause properly.

    So to give this comment some meaning. I just want to say a huge thank you for not only all your help in answering questions I had over the years but also all the hard work you put in to doing this stuff properly, with scrutiny and the ability to reinvestigate your ideas/beliefs.


  41. Kelly says

    The Nurses Health study showed that the more read meat (and high dairy products) women ate earlier in their adult life lead to an increased risk of breast cancer. I would like refer the reader to a review entitled: Dietary Fat and Heart Failure: Moving From Lipotoxicity to Lipoprotection, in Circulation Research for a more unbiased approach on this subject.

  42. paleoslayer says

    Red meat dangerous? Looks like “gluten free” is dangerous now too:–gluten-free-diets-could-be-dangerous-doctors-say
    “There are a lot of alternative practitioners out there that blame gluten for everything, even though there’s not a lot of science behind it,” said Dr. Joseph Levy, division director of pediatric gastroenterology at New York University Langone Medical Center in New York City.”

  43. Bob says

    I am surprised that so many of your links/references don’t support the statements that you are making. For example,

    You state: “The fact you can live on meat exclusively and indefinitely seems to get lost in the shuffle.”

    Yet the link you proved doesn’t actually say anything about eating meat exclusively or indefinitely. In fact, it indicates that “Impaired physical performance is a common but not obligate result of a low carbohydrate diet.” and that on a ketogenic diet “. . .anaerobic (ie, weight lifting or sprint) performance is limited by the low muscle glycogen levels induced by a ketogenic diet, and this would strongly discourage its use under most conditions of competitive athletics.”

    You state: “I mean, things Like the Nurses Health Study already “showed” that the more meat and fat women ate the healthier they were, right?”

    Yet the link doesn’t say that. It says things like, “. . .women who consume high amounts of red meat and high-fat dairy foods during their early adult years are at increased risk of developing breast cancer.”

    To be honest, I couldn’t find a single link you provide that supported in the claim you associated with it.

    I was hoping there was more support for your position.

  44. Crossfit significant other says

    Hi. I had been a supporter of Crossfit and my significant other and good friends are all “Crossfitters”. But what Robb said about the red meat study was just wrong! I had been a fan of Robb but I am not sure that I will anymore since his comments clearly showed that he has little knowledge in epidemiology. Here is why:

    First, regarding his first criticism: yes, people had to remember what they ate for the last 6 months and the data of red meat intake was based on it. This method is not ideal, the ideal would be lock everyone in a lab and feed everyone different amount of red meat randomly and see what happens. But we can’t do a randomized control trial with >150000 people over 20 years… This data collection design is valid because a) the study was prospective. They collected the data as time progressed, but at the end of 20 years and asked people to look back, so sick people will be less likely to say “oh geez, I am sick now, it must have been the red meat I consumed in the past years.”, then inflate their answers. b) because this study was 20 years long, participants overall might had been less accurate in their meet consumption reports at the beginning of the study, but most people would get better in keeping track and reporting the right thing over such a long time. c) even if people don’t remember their consumptions correctly, as long as everyone remembers poorly and not that the big red meat consumers differentially remember their consumptions better/worse than others, then poor memory/reporting will NOT change the results.

    Second of all, his point of confounding. ANYONE who has taken a graduate school course in epi would know that yes, confounding exists but there are good statistical methods to minimize its effect in skewing results. And this research used all these good methods during its analysis, adjusting its results for confounding (included the ones his mention: weight and exercise levels etc.) So confounding should NOT be an issue.

    Finally, to his third point, correlation doesn’t prove causation. His is right about that. No scientific study ever conducted has ever claimed to prove causation. But think about a parachute: no one has ever used any scientific methods to prove that a parachute is effective in helping you land safely from your skydiving stunts, and if it were such a study, it would only prove that there is a strong correlation between using a parachute, and not dying. Then should we not use a parachute?

    • says

      You are using a parachute to make a point about Epi? What you missed entirely from this is the time for weak studies like this are OVER. The assumptions you are describing to make epidemiology “work” are on par the the guesses an astrologer makes and the field has been rightly criticized for these flaws. Please follow Barry Sears, that guy has his shit nailed down!

  45. says

    There’s always a HUGE amount of discrepancies and contradiction between test and studies done, and results all depend on the people doing it, isn’t there…?

    Thanks for the article

  46. Donna Vegmarie says

    I dont care if you choose to live on pork rinds and snickers bars, I am pretty sure you can find an article that will say it is healthy for you. I choose to believe that the less animal fat (steroids, antibiotics, hormones) you put in your body the better. I would go out on a limb and say a high animal fat, sugar, high carb and low fiber diet might not be your best choice to live a long healthy life. Also with the amount of anitbiotics they feed to the animals lets hope you dont get MRSA or some other superinfection that antibiotics do not respond to. Why dont you just go out in the pasture and eat the manure, skip the middle man, er, cow. Also, there are various medical procedures to clean out the sludge from your artieries, and medications (none have side effects either, I am pretty sure) should you choose to live on medications and procedures to keep you alive, hopefully you wont die on the table or your stents dont clot off and your medications work. Hopefully you wont get diabetes (amputations, blindness, kidney failure)or cancer (chemotherapy radiation, surgery) A lot of us will have to pay dearly for your lifestyle too, in higher insurance premiums and taxes ect. I also hope that you will not get e-choli or some other bacteria that may kill you (death=cheapest form of healthcare) because you want animal flesh and secretions on a daily basis. You must not be an environmentalist either, (duh, obviously or you would not want all the waste of natural resources to go to making the meat, eggs, cheese and milk that you exist on)silly me. After all, there is no vegetable based protein, oh, there is? Wow. I take it that the cows like the abuse and torture they go through for you and that we should not give that a thought. After all, who cares about their suffering. Thats what God put them here for right? Yes, people say that all the time. Ok this red meat thing may catch on. Bring on the burgers! hold the steroids, bacteria, hormones, and antibiotics please. Can I biggie size that with a diet coke?

  47. Donna Vegmarie says

    mtolson–you seem a little angry at vegans, calling people self righteous, children, trolls. Wow and it is vegans who are taking shots? It is weird to me that people get angry with the people who want compassion and not killing. Maybe you could calm down and tell us why…or not.

  48. P. N. says

    Got this straight out of The Nurses Health Study! (link posted above)
    Many lines of evidence indicate that the type of fat is very important to long-term health. Replacing saturated and trans with natural vegetable oils can greatly reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. In the Nurses’ Health Study II we have seen that women who consume high amounts of red meat and high-fat dairy foods during their early adult years are at increased risk of developing breast cancer.
    Come on people, lets try thinking for ourselves for once, do the research, don’t look for Mr. Wolf here to do it for you and expect it to be what’s best for YOU! If our children had all the nutrients in their bodies, would you eat them too?

  49. says

    I find three things that really fructrate me about studies like this. One we are paying for it. The second is that it seems that almost no science is done with scientific integrity anymore. It is always done with the conclusion already made so instead of trying to disprove a hypothesis they are trying to prove one and when data comes back that doenst fit the hypothesis they try to figure out a reason the data is bad instead of thinking oh maybe the hypothesis is bad. Last thing is the crappy way media does their job. It used to be that the job of the press was to keep everyone honest, It doesnt seem that way anymore.

  50. Matt says

    Ah, denying the existence of over 7000 studies both epidemiological as well as mechanistic. Cognitive dissonance anyone?

    I may smoke cigarettes, but at least I’m not in denial of the cancer risk.

  51. Tom H says

    Why does this stuff keep happening? Lets take a 50,000 foot view.

    Meat and animal fats are expensive to grow/process and messy. You can leave a few kilo’s of dried GMO corn sitting in a bag for a year with no trouble. Try that with a live goat or a rib eye primal.

    This effect of pushing a cheaper, inferior product on us started perhaps with the launch of crisco. Animal fat renderers had a monopoly on the fat used to make candles, so candle makers created a vegetable ‘tallow’ they could use to make candles for less money. Then someone noted you could cook with it too, and crisco was born. Target marketed as the fat for the younger, more modern woman, consumers were encouraged to avoid looking like the old lady that used lard.

    And vegetable oil based margarine was cheaper to make than butter, and a bowl full of grains is much cheaper than a bacon and egg breakfast, along with being more convenient.

    This pattern repeats through the 20th and into the 21st century. We’re indoctrinated to eat the cheap and easy to grown and process, easy to eat, tasty and highly profitable foods that have almost no nutritional value aside from calories.

    How do you perpetuate this? Run lots and lots of worthless studies, picked up by scientifically naive reporters, which are then fluffed up by the usual scare tactics. Remember that just last week we were all going to be swallowed by sinkholes?

    Economics seem to rule our diets. I still giggle about the morbidly obese dad telling his obese son not to get water with his meal at a burger joint because “The soda is included in your meal, so get that instead”.

    At this point the wrong nutritional information is baked into our consciousness. Avoid fat. Avoid meat. Eat grains and processed starches and anything that says “Low Fat!” or “multigrain” on the package. I watched a tv commercial some months ago where concerned parents all talked about the conflicting dietary information they receive all the time and not knowing which direction to take. Encouraging! But then it was capped with a smiling, confident looking woman who declares “But I know good nutrition when I see it!”. “Good nutrition” turned out to be a grain that had been rolled, steamed, fried in industrial seed oil and then sprayed with at least one type of sugar.

    Re-educating people to eat what really is good for them is an impossible task. You have to overcome a trillion dollar food industry that would love us to eat products that are 95% GMO corn, wheat and soy cooked in canola and sprayed with sugar. You have to overcome the entire media outlet that just wants page views and clicks, and “something you’re doing right now will kill you!!!1!” is how that happens. And then you have to overcome a half century of idiots like this telling us what to eat, almost always being 180 degrees wrong.

    I do have some success with it in my local circles, but not much. By changing to a “meat is good, fat is good, salt is okay, avoid grains, most root veg, drink water, lots of whole fruits and vegetables” approach I lost 80lbs. I had diabetes and high blood pressure and every blood test result was nailed hard into the red. I got that way by eating “what I was supposed to”. Lots of cereal, grains, bread, avoiding meat and fat. On my new diet, my blood work is absolutely perfect, even though I eat a diet with as much as 50% saturated fat, much of it animal based, tons of processed meats like bacon and sausage, and plenty of salt. I went from up to 17 prescription pills a day to zero.

    So when people ask how I did it and I tell them, they’re skeptical. I do the ‘look at this’ and wave my hands around the flat stomach and lack of giant globs of fat. I offer to show the paperwork from my blood work. Some people are swayed, many offer up the universally dismissive “different things work for different people”. But even the people who try it can’t stop eating the sugar and even the starches are hard. “I’m a bread person”. “I have to have my xxx”. Fine, that means you give up and want to be fat. You have to be in charge, not the food.

  52. Susan Harmony says

    The human hbody is an open system

    The human body is a non- equilibrium system

    The optimal duet is NOT known by scientists- not by a long shot. Science is still unravelling how cells work.

  53. Jason says

    I’m glad I read this. I only have a BMI of 18.7 and yet I eat mostly organic red meat everyday. Of course, I balance my diet with two fresh cups of assorted fruits, too, some veggies and of course, exercise at least 4 times a week for 45 minutes max. What I try to stay away from is the grains. I find they make me feel bloated, and they give me mood swings. Couldn’t believe I’m finally weaning off from my psychiatric meds after changing my lifestyle. Goodbye depression!

  54. says

    Everything is good in moderation, too much of anything is always bad. Red meat can also give so much nutrients when eaten moderately it can also do good to our body.

  55. says

    Thanks for the posting. My partner and i have often noticed that the majority of people are desirous to lose weight because they wish to show up slim along with attractive. However, they do not continually realize that there are additional benefits for you to losing weight in addition. Doctors state that obese people come across a variety of diseases that can be perfectely attributed to their own excess weight. The great thing is that people that are overweight plus suffering from different diseases can reduce the severity of their illnesses by simply losing weight. It is possible to see a slow but noticeable improvement in health if even a moderate amount of weight loss is attained.

  56. says

    Such an amazing read. It is really sad how bad red meat gets treated. People will stuff their faces with refined sugars, processed foods and unhealthy grains while raising their nose to us, vicious animals, who want to dive into a healthy and natural indulgence of savory, juicy red meat! Excellent Read! Robb, I love all of your reads, keep this great content coming.

  57. Sara says

    Only way red meat is bad for you- cow tipping gone completely wrong or bad bull riding experience. Otherwise it’s the bread and grains that will kill ya.

  58. Kimmi G says

    All of the studies and research are so contradictory! I gave Paleo a try for 30 days, I felt great, so I went 30 more and after 90 days I had my routine yearly check up. Every single part of my blood work was in normal range. No more anemia, perfect cholesterol and glucose levels not to mention my thyroid is within normal range (it’s been wonky for years)… If red meat is going to kill me, please tell me how because I am eating more red meat than I ever have. I feel great, my blood work is perfect and I have actually lost a some weight. Listen to your body, that’s my study! I know what fuels me the best.

  59. Julia Pace says

    Dear Robb, I love what you do. In your book, you wrote about how being vegan made you very unhealthy. Not all vegans have a similar experience. I wish you had information about how some of us should eat less meat and more vegetables. (My liver enzymes went way up when I was eating grass fed organic beef) I rarely eat beef now and stick with small amounts of other animal protein. I wish I knew what went wrong with me and beef since I would love to eat more of it. I am afraid to eat much animal protein.

  60. James (again) says

    To answer my own question (in case anyone else didn’t know) through the power of the google I found that a cohort study is basically just one that observes a bunch of people that don’t have the condition being studied to look for commonalities among those that do or don’t get the condition. Prospective just means the study started at the beginning of the time period of the study. Retrospective would have been if they decided to do a study and based it off of existing records.

    In this case it looked at a bunch of people who at the beginning of the study weren’t dead, then looked for differences in diet between those who did and didn’t get dead by the end of the study.

    By, uh, asking them every 4 years what they ate.

    “Measure it with a micrometer. Cut it with an axe.”

  61. says

    That I’ve grown into a “voice of reason” is just terrifying if you knew my youth. Wacky!
    I’d give my all for a Total Recall redo. LOVE that movie.

  62. Dana says

    The reason the public dosen’t understand it is because they listen to the false reporting from people who are also ignorant of the science.

    Unfortunately many of these studies are skewed to favor the opinion of the authors. That is why you can easily find studies that totally contradict each other. Our best knowledge comes from the studies of our history.

  63. says

    Collusion much?! I think it’d be worth an analysis of the Ornish claims, from way back until this piece. That guys is lucky he is tall, he is awash in copious amounts of BS.

  64. Rich B says


    (1) In the commentary Dr. Ornish states, “Therefore, studies of HPLC diets that only examine their effects on changes in weight, blood pressure, and lipid levels may not adequately reflect the negative influence of HPLC diets on health outcomes, such as morbidity and mortality.” Obviously weight, BP, and lipid levels are only markers or risk factors for disease, but can you, or anyone elaborate/retort these claims in relation to health outcomes?

    (2) Obviously diet is extremely important, but I agree that we should not be seeking out this golden ratio of macronutrients. Diet is only one of the many components of good health. Exercise, adequate rest, lifestyle, and probably a few other pieces I forgot are equally important to maintain good health. Any deficits in these factors will result in inflammation as compensation by the body leading to chronic disease, IMO. Just my two cents!


  65. says

    As a nutrition PhD student focusing on the link between research and policy, I respectfully agree with both of you.

    On the one hand, it’s very difficult to do randomized trials of diet, because of adherence issues, nutrient interactions, and tons of other stuff. Funding is a zero-sum game, and randomized trials of even simple diets costs millions because of the long time frames. In medical (non-nutrition) research, “nested case control” studies are possible because cohorts exist that already have people who’ve used the intervention. That’s a no-can-do with paleo. How many people are paleo in a given town in the US? Not many.

    On the other hand, clinical trials are probably warranted in lieu of more epi, at this time. At my day job (conducting meta-analyses for federal medical reviews) we did a project on “update signals” for research. In this project, we explored what factors made an area of research need new studies and new reviews. In my opinion, paleo has been more or less a slam dunk in terms in biological plausability. In addition, the “saturated fat not associated with heart disease” meta-analysis ( was the first in a line of reviews that showed how bad it can be to keep conducting epi studies.

    So the takeaway might be…time to get funding! Which bigwig can get enough funding to start a multi-center paleo randomized trial? Lustig? Loren Cordain with Robb Wolf as co-investigator?

  66. Jodi says

    Randomized controled trials are a type of study design, and is embedded in the field of epidemiology. There are poorly designed RCTs, and poorly designed cohort studies. The main problem is there is conflicting evidence due to differences in study quality and design, leading people to be confused. I 100% agree with Kris, that there is a need for better health reporting and scientific understanding from the public!

  67. Boogie says

    why not make it a “kickstarter” crowd funding project?
    if you publicise such a project through all Paleo blogs and the usual social networks you would reach a HUGE audience…


  68. nutsnseedz says

    Seriously – the kickstart idea is a good one. I’d totally throw in a benjie. We need a council to design the study. Robb, Minger, Kresser, Lalonde, Lindeburg… who else does “science”?

  69. mekaylah says

    that movie rules. but, we don’t need another remake. i find it funny how much our current life seems to imitate that piece of art. particularly the news these days.

  70. Kirk Smith says

    Shocking AND pathetic, Robb. A huge percentage of the population has lost its ability to research anything and just go whichever way the wind blows when new information gets published. I knew the Devil was in the details. Thank you for nailing the coffin shut on this!

  71. says

    Here in Australia we eat more grass fed beef than anywhere on the planet. We also have some of the highest rates of colon cancer.

    If your going to eat a lot of meat MAKE SURE YOU GET YOUR CANCER TESTS EVERY FEW MONTHS so that way if you test positive, you can go high carb low fat vegan and cure yourself if you catch it soon enough.

    Red meat = cancer. Only a dumb caveman wouldnt understand that lol!

  72. Adam says

    lol, I was wondering when this guy was going to chime in. He’s been slandering Robb all over the internet. Look Harley, I appreciate one thing you said when you said you “follow your heart”, but I don’t appreciate any thing elser about how you go about spreading your vegan message.

    Robb does a good job of refuting studies and showing evidence for the paleo diet. Your scientific argument of “well look at me, I’m lean and fit” doesn’t hold any water anymore. People will not thrive on eating 3000cal a day of fruit, nor is it good for the earth when anyone in the northern hemisphere needs to transport their food from across the world in order to maintain their luxurious all fruit diets.

  73. NYChealer says

    Total nonsense.

    So many blame the meat, while they consume high carbs, processed foods and sugar. Since you believe that high carb/low fat will cure colon cancer, when just the reverse is true, it’s obvious what else you are eating beside grass-fed beef!

    Stop spreading misinformation.

  74. bananarama says

    To assume that colon cancer is the result of high amounts of grass fed beef, without considering anything else just shows you have blinkers on. If you fell over tomorrow, we could say that Vegans who have high fruit intake are subject to poor balance.

    You use no real science to back your cause and try the “it works for me” approach, which doesn’t prove anything.

    Im embarrased that this guy is from my home town. He once ate 72 bananas in a day!

  75. Montie says


    You sir, are a fricken’ idiot. Period, end of discussion. You are certainly free to eat what you like and espouse it if you think it will help others, but leave out the ad hominem attacks against those like Robb Wolf, Mark Sisson, Gary Taubes, et al who have opposing viewpoints with regard to proper nutrition, exercise and lifestyle.

    You devote WAYYY too much energy and time slandering these wonderful folks and it only serves to make you look childish, immature and feeble-minded. If you think that a vegan or fruitarian lifestyle is the be-all and end-all of human nutrition then get out there and make your case in a positive way at your own blog (yes I’ve been to it) instead of slandering others and lurking around sites like Robb’s making trollish comments.

    It’s OK to disagree, it’s not OK to be a dick!

  76. mtolson says

    people people people Durianrider is like that kid on the playground who eats bugs for attention. He will keep spreading this message until he finds people stupid enough to listen. He wants attention so he makes bold and outrageous claims; that makes him a troll. We know how valuable red meat can be in a standard diet and we don’t care about some scrawny little vegan. We all know that vegans are the most self-righteous people on the planet and that will never change. They continue to slander and even take shots at Robb Wolf’s wife…they are freaking children.

    You have no evidence of what makes your ideas so much better so until you can be a big boy and prove your theory kindly bugger off

  77. Becks says

    Actually, there is some good science being conducted that shows a link between consuming beef and colon cancer rates. HOWEVER, it should be noted that the correlation exists in the amount of undercooked (rare, medium rare, raw) beef consumed. What is being discovered is that there are bovine viruses that may be causing the polyps and then cancer later. Cooking the beef long enough to kill the virus(es) should offer protection if this is the case.

    I’ve listened to Professor Zur Hausen’s (nobel laureate) lecture on the subject and it is quite convicing. You can view it here:

    I was avoiding beef based on Professor Hausen’s lecture but since I’ve gone grain-free I’ve found I have to eat red meat to avoid feeling fatigued sometimes.

  78. NYChealer says

    Bravo, Robb! I healed lifelong, chronic asthma and other allergies on a Paleo style diet, and eating grass-fed meat saved my life. I haven’t seen a doctor in years and years, have high energy every day with absolutely NO health problems ever since changing my diet. I also haven’t had to take an asthma drug or visit the ER, when I used to be on medication every day in order to breathe. And so now they want me to believe the food that saved me is also killing me!!!! So idiotic. What’s sad is how SO many people are going to believe this misinformation and bogus study, when they, too, could have been helped by cutting out carbs and bringing grassfed meat into their diets.

  79. Ian Barry says

    if you want a great example of life imitating art watch Idiocracy, its a scary,funny but acurate glimpse of the future.
    “Brando’s got what plants crave, its got electrolytes”
    Seriously Robb watch this film you will LOVE it!!

  80. says

    Here is the hilarity that is Dean Ornish (and I’m not talking about his hair): In EVERY study of LC vs HC the LC intervention in regards to changes in blood lipids, markers of inflammation, improved sleep…you name it. So Ornish just says “well…yea…but we don’t know that it improves out comes…”

    Which in a way is true, but he just gets to IGNORE the metrics that are generally associated WITH morbidity and mortality!! The ethics in this are remarkable.

  81. Montie says


    Really….Gee, they (as in those who think eating red meat is a bad, bad thing) have always said that OVERCOOKING red meat was what gave it carcinogenic properties. So, now it’s UNDERCOOKING that is carcinogenic. Perhaps those viruses they attribute to causing colon polyps have become kind of “super viruses” thanks to all the growth factors, anti-bacterials, and anti-virals modern grain-fed cattle are pumped full of these days.

    Guess I’ll just keep buying grass-fed and finished, then shoot for that perfect “medium” on my steaks!

  82. Tom H says

    A study recently evaluated President Obama in each of the past 5 years. In each of those cases, he was alive and President.

    The conclusion drawn from this is that Obama will always be alive, and always be President. It is also reasonable to presume that he was always alive and always President.

    And now we know how studies are done.

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