What Do You Say About This, First Lady Michelle Obama?

The medical world is filled today with dietary advice.  One day you hear that drinking red wine is good for you; the next day it’s a killer. It’s hard to know which mantra to follow and who to believe. Even First Lady Michelle Obama has gotten into the mix with the Let’s Move! Program and the government’s MyPlate plan.

Now, a new study is putting MyPlate to shame. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans includes “lean meats, poultry, fish…” and many other items.  An Pan, the lead author of the new study published online Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine, said, “Any read meat you eat contributes to the risk” of dying.

Looking at the Facts

The study looked at 110,000 adults for more than 20 years who filled out questionnaires about their eating habits. The Harvard researchers found dramatic results about eating red meat.  Eating a serving of nuts rather than a serving of beef or pork was associated with a 10% lower risk of death during the 20 year study; substituting poultry or whole grains instead of the meat showed a 14% reduction in mortality risk; using low-fat dairy or legumes showed a 10% decrease and fish offered a 7% decrease.

In the reverse, adding one extra serving a day of processed red meat, which would include such things as a hot dog or two slices of bacon, increased the risk of death by 20% in the course of the study!

In addition, researchers did not find a distinction between processed and unprocessed meats. They thought that only processed meats would lead to increased risks, but were shocked to find that both created the risk equally.

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The Critics Step In

Certainly, there are critics of the study like Carol Koprowski at the USC Keck School of Medicine who say that the research has room for error.  However, many are taking note.

Cattle and pig farmers will, undoubtedly, have much to say about the new study coming from Harvard. Bloggers are voicing their opinions on all sides as well. As one rather cranky writer, Nicholas Lezard, for the Guardian, wrote,

“Give me a stern vegetarian with strong social and ethical principles against the raising and eating of livestock any day of the week, rather than this meek and wowserish approach to eating, and to life.”