Today’s Wall Street Journal greets readers with another prescription for dietary doom: According to the latest study, a protein in red meats called l-carnitine leads bacteria in the gut to increase certain heart disease risk factors. To the media, this means that even the leanest top sirloin will kill you.
In fact, the study doesn’t claim how many people are killed by their meat-caused gut bacteria or what the actual increased “death risk” is. Despite the noise from vegan activists, long-term studies with noted methodological problems — good luck recalling what you ate 6 months ago, as some surveys ask — show that the alleged risk of eating meat is actually far lower than a relative risk level the National Cancer Institute cautioned is “small and […] usually difficult to interpret.”
There’s a reason we make fun of “latest study” hysteria — the “latest studies” often conflict, when they aren’t outright shoddy. This one goes in the “studies conflict” file: A recent study in the American Heart Association journal Circulation found that red meat consumption was not linked with cardiovascular disease.
Rather than rushing to judge particular food items as “superfoods” and others as basically poison, sound dietary advice follows the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’s “total diet approach” which states, “[…] the total diet or overall pattern of food eaten is the most important focus of healthy eating.” We don’t expect that to stop the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) — a.k.a. the PETA acolytes in lab coats who seem to show up anytime somebody suggests eating meat might not be good for you — from making hay of this research and claiming that veganism will cure everything from cancer to the common cold. When vegans propose that the evidence of the “latest study” will unleash a sirloin-flavored plague of the firstborns on the non-vegan 99 percent, it’s a safe bet that they’re blowing things well out of proportion.