New guideline says adults can eat red, processed meat

For years, Americans have been told to cut back on red and processed meat consumption for better health. These food products led humans to a higher risk of cancer and other diseases, according to institutional dietary guidelines.

However, according to a new guideline published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, adults can actually continue consuming both processed meats and red meat. The guideline is based on a rigorous set of four systematic reviews of previous studies looking at the impact of red and processed meat consumption on cardiometabolic and cancer outcomes.

One review found that risk outcomes were only slightly affected by dietary patterns, including differences in meat consumption. Another review similarly found the impact of reduced meat intake “was very small,” wrote authors Aaron E. Carroll, MD, MS, of the Center for Pediatric and Adolescent Comparative Effectiveness Research, Indiana University School of Medicine, and Tiffany S. Doherty, PhD, of the Center for Pediatric and Adolescent Comparative Effectiveness Research, in a related editorial.

The authors also found a problem with some of the studies in their meta-analyses, nothing that they are all observational and therefore “subject to significant confounding,” they wrote.

“Despite this lack of consistent evidence, the case has long been made for reducing meat consumption to reduce risk for cardiovascular disease and various cancers. Indeed, reduction of meat intake is generally endorsed in dietary guidelines,” the authors wrote.

The researchers used the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) system to determine which studies to include. It is the most widely used tool by researcher to assess quality of science, Vox reported.

The authors noted that their overall guideline that adults continue to consume red and processed meat at their current level was sure to be “controversial.”

The findings unleashed a blowback from several healthcare groups that have long endorsed plat-based diets or recommended cutting back on red and processed meat, including, The American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and more.