Meat: As bad a cigarettes?!
Just a quickie here:
A number of folks have asked for my thoughts on the new study which would have us believe eating meat is as bad a smoking .
More epidemiology, more correlation without causation. Overeat, get poor sleep, stay sedentary and you have problems. That’s my complex, physiological un-packing of this study. My emotional response?
A few folks seem to have their britches bunched that I did not spend 20 hours writing a detailed dissection of this bollocks. Sorry, unless the study is really good, unique are meaningful, I’m not wasting my time on this stuff any longer. I’ve broken down studies before and at this point it’s just a waste of my time. Even when folks did some molecular biology related work looking at Tmano the researchers omitted fish consumption data which would have completely scuttled their results as fish produces much higher Tmano levels than meat.
I know that part of my job is to act as an interface between the science/medical scene and the folks who do not have a medical background. I take that role seriously but I’m not a fan of Groundhogs Day. Well, the movie was kick-ass, but living it is not a party. Hence my very abbreviated treatment of this topic. Here is a comment from Woockman, give it a read:
As an epi and public healtlh professional what irks me about all these studies is your conclusions. Using data from the study of one chemical or one biomarker is ridiculous. Humans are never exposed to one one thing in their natural environment everything is a mixture. To allow the media to make assumptions like “Meat consumption is as dangerous as smoking” is irresponsible. The study admits in numerous places potential problems with their methods and data yet turns around only to attempt to justify conclusions. Cancer is a disease that often times progresses slowly. I find it interesting that the high mortality rate is in the 50 -65 age group. That is about the time when all factors (stress, occupation, lack of activity, etc.) begin to take the most toll on a body and increase things like inflammation and metabolic disfunction. All of which could account for your results. Too many of these studies smack of a specific agenda in part because the media picks it up and runs with it whether they understand it or not. A true scientist would try and limit these media associations until a true consensus with strong data is reached. This of course will never happen since much of science has been hijacked by politics and personal agendas. No one lives forever.
Epidemiology is an important tool, but it is being used as a shortcut to drive political agendas and policies. Folks are asked questions about what they remember eating…and this makes front page news. The last big round of this the researchers were subsequently chastised for going on outlets like NPR and talking about their research in a way that was pretty misleading. By that point however the gato was out of the bolsa and it was just a matter of damage control. Why is research conducted in this way? It’s comparatively cheap and easy to do compared to say a large randomized, controlled trial. That’s a pretty factual statement, an opinion based statement is that this data is easily manipulated. Draw from that what you will. Speaking of the holy grail of research, the RCT, let’s look at some of the problems with that approach:
Let’s say we get some pretty big funding to look at gluten intolerance and autoimmune disease. In general the study will involve selecting a group of folks (as large as the budget will allow, which will help with establishing whether or not the intervention results are actually meaningful or just random noise) and placing them on a gluten inclusive or exclusive diet. These folsk will be counseled on what to (or not to) eat, some tracking metrics are employed, then they are released to live their lives. Time goes on, data is collected, we look at the results. Maybe we see a benefit of eating a gluten free diet with regards to AI. Critics will rightfully point out that we really do not know WHAT folks really ate as they were free living and largely just reporting food intake. It was NOT a metabolic ward which is a situation in which folks live in a hospital setting and all food, activity, meds etc are tightly monitored. metabolic ward trials are REALLY the gold standard for an RCT…but they are damn expensive and really invasive (want to live in a hospital for a year?) So, the best science we can draw from (metabolic ward) is expensive and has huge wash-out rates, the next step down (free living RCT) starts looking not a lot different than this epidemiology paper if one really wants to be persnickety about the controls. Then we have another layer to this: Do the results actually apply to YOU? Drug trials try to establish average responses to a given dose of medication. This may mean nothing for you if your genetics and circumstances place you outside some number of standard deviations.
So, what the hell do you do? For me, I start with this Ancestral Health model and start working out from there. How does my body respond to different foods or macronutrient ratios? How do I look, feel and perform? How does my blood work change? It makes sense to me to start with this evolutionary template and then work out using outcome based medicine. Even here we do not have perfectly clear cut outcomes. My friend, Dr. Rocky Patel had clear hyperinsulinemia when eating a high carb diet. He had vascular calcifications and markers of systemic inflammation. He went on a ketogenic diet, his LDL-P went through the roof (generally not a good thing) yet his systemic inflammatory markers plummeted (good) and his subsequent carotid scan showed a reversal of calcification (really good). The clinical outcome seems good, but still lots of questions in that case.
I’m not sure what else to say about this other than I keep an eye on the science, but I put a disproportionate weight into personal experience.