According to NutriRECS, there is no need to cut back on red and processed meat. This newly formed international group of nutritionists and health researchers said they failed to find any links to health problems like heart disease and cancer.
The report was generated by a panel of international researchers who conducted five reviews of available research on meat-eating. It included the impact of meat consumption on cardiovascular health and cancer risk.
According to an editorial about the research, the team focused on more than 100 studies and this involved more than 6 million.
The NutriRECS recommendations contradict the guidelines made by the World Health Organization, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the UK’s National Health Service, and many other organizations regarding the cons of consuming red and processed meat.
The new guidelines have caused an outcry among the leading health and nutrition researchers.
“This is a very irresponsible public health recommendation,” said Dr. Frank Hu, chair of the nutrition department at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
The vice president of research at the American Institute for Cancer Research, Dr. Nigel Brockton said: “Suggesting that there is no need to limit these foods would put people at risk of colorectal cancer and further undermine public confidence in dietary advice.”
According to Bradley Johnston, the lead author of the guidelines and co-founder of NutriRECS, the group’s new guidelines made a “weak recommendation” based on “low-quality evidence” that most people don’t need to lessen their red and processed meat consumption.
The group only considered the impact of red meat consumption on human health. It excluded such issues as the impact of meat consumption on the environment and animal rights.
Stanford School of Medicine nutrition scientist Christopher Gardner criticized the new guidelines.
“Why would you make a weak recommendation about eating red and processed meat? I’m completely flabbergasted. I’m also really worried about how dangerous this is,” stated Gardner.
Jim Mann, who is a professor of medicine and human nutrition at the University of Otago in New Zealand and a member of the WHO Nutrition Guidance Expert Advisory Group also chimed in.
“It should be noted that the group does not represent any national or international organization or government. Guidelines are generally issued by authoritative bodies rather than self-selected groups,” Mann reacted.
The NutriRECS researchers who came up with the new guidelines used a methodology called GRADE. This stands for Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation.
Naysayers of the new guidelines have said that the GRADE criteria is best for the evaluation of randomized clinical trials. They say it’s not suited for lifestyle studies because you cannot control the variables in the experiment.
In response, NutriRECS member and Canadian clinical epidemiologist who teaches at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Dr. Gordon Guyat said: “I believe that a well-informed and rational people will make different decisions when the evidence is low quality than when the evidence is high quality.”
The editor-in-chief of Annals of Internal Medicine, Dr. Christine Laine explained her decision to publish the studies.
“The research on nutrition is not great quality and that’s just a fact. There are lots of groups that have issued strong dietary advice that is not supported by high-quality reviews of the evidence. So, we were interested in this work because of their methodology.” said Dr. Laine.