A series of new studies published in Monday’s Annals of Internal Medicine has called into question a long delivered piece of health advice, that people should limit their consumption of red and processed meat.
“We are suggesting that people can continue their current level of meat consumption,” said Dr. Gordon Guyatt, a researcher at McMaster University and the chair of the study’s guideline panel.
After analyzing a number of previous studies, researchers from seven countries, including Canada, found there was not enough evidence to link meat consumption with a risk of cancer or cardiovascular disease.
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The recommendations come in sharp contrast to the advice delivered by groups like the Canadian Cancer Society, which recommends people limit their red meat consumption to no more than three servings a week to reduce their risk of colorectal cancer.
“In our opinion, the apparent about-face (to this advice) was that previous recommendations were made without considering two things. One, the evidence out there is really low quality,” said Guyatt. “The second thing is that even if you accept that red meat’s link to cancer risk is causal, it is a very, very small increased risk.”
In a statement to Global News, the Canadian Cancer Society defended its recommendations, pointing to research, released last May.
“In May, we shared the results of a comprehensive Canadian study that looked at 30 different cancer types due to more than 20 different modifiable cancer risk factors. The study showed that if Canadians reduce our consumption of red or processed meat by half a serving per week, we could prevent about 8,700 or 16, 600 cancer cases, respectively by 2042.
Registered dietitian Lalitha Taylor says she understands why people might be unsure of what information to trust.
“(The research released Monday) is a high-quality meta-analysis study and I think when people receive this information, they’re going to be confused about the messaging about red meat and processed meat,” said Taylor.
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“Red meat is a nutritious source of protein, iron and zinc and it can be part of a healthy diet when eaten in moderation. However, we do know that the risk of certain types of cancer like colorectal cancers increases when people’s consumption of red meat exceeds 18 ounces per week.”