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While On The Beat
By Eric L. Adams, Jennifer Gunter, and Dr. David L. Katz
When It Comes to the Health
Dangers of Processed Meats,
the Science is Settled
Nutrition: why does it confuse
us when the truth is simple and
We are living in an age of
information overload, where the
become increasingly blurry. The
whirlwind of trendy nutrition claims
can make us believe we don’t know
anything about health-except, we do.
The most recent entry in the socalled
debate around nutrition is the
series of systematic reviews and metaanalyses
on red meat consumption,
just published in Annals of Internal
Medicine. These papers conclude
that there is “no need to reduce red
and processed meat consumption for
improved health outcomes.”
We believe the inaccurate
will set back many of the gains we
have made in public health.
The researchers have not
performed any new studies.
Despite the fanfare, there is no new
information, and no new-found
incongruences. These red meat
reports simply re-evaluated studies
that have already been peer-reviewed
and published. But critically, they
evaluated these studies using
tools designed for pharmaceutical
trials, which typically prioritize
randomized control trials that tend
to be very difficult and unethical
as lifestyle medicine interventions.
Observational, cohort and
longitudinal studies better measure
lifestyle interventions, because
they can study longer time periods,
adherence and patterns.
As one of us has personally
as medicine, we understand the risks
that come from reports designed to
confound us. In the end, we are made
to believe that the science is unsteady
and the experts disagree.
This is simply not true. True
Health Initiative, a global coalition
of world-leading health specialists,
includes experts from paleo to vegan
who all agree on the fundamentals of
healthy eating. There is pretty much
unanimous agreement amongst the
The recommendations put
forth by these reports are in direct
contradiction to the data reported
by the reports themselves. These
studies provide no compelling reason
to update guidelines, and they do
not address the health detriments
associated with eating red and
processed meat in large quantities.
The problem isn’t that we don’t
know what to eat. The problem is
that we are constantly being fed
a narrative that the jury is still
deliberating on a number of health
matters, when in many cases the
verdict has already been rendered.
And this is a very, very big problem.
And let’s be clear: we have made
a lot of progress. In New York, there
has been a sea change in our approach
to healthy eating. Responding to
Eric L. Adams
the Borough President’s advocacy
on meat reduction, New York City
announced their visionary document,
OneNYC this past April, committing
to move away from processed meats
and towards healthier options. In that
document, branded as NYC’s Green
New Deal, the City committed to a
50% decrease in beef purchasing via
Meatless Mondays began in
school cafeterias as a first step
towards meat reduction and quickly
expanded beyond schools, expanding
to hospitals; other City agencies are
considering implementing this policy
These decisions were not made
haphazardly; they were made because
supporting them. Reports like the
Annals’ meta-analyses on red meat
irresponsibly undermine nutrition
We often hear that shifting away
from processed meats would be
unpalatable to the broader public.
But there is a clear appetite for
plant-based eating. The borough
president recently took the lead on
creating a plant-based nutrition clinic
at Bellevue Hospital. In January
2018, the CEO of New York Health
+ Hospitals announced a $400,000
investment into this clinic. There is
now a wait list of 650 people. We need
more plant-based options, not fewer.
The Annals of Internal
Medicine red meat meta-analyses
and systematic reviews are not a
revolution in dietary guidelines, they
are simply a series of papers using
claims the papers make threaten to
delay change with confusion. We are
standing at a crossroads. Let us rely on
sense before nonsense, and continue
to evolve our communities towards
better nutrition, sustainability and
a culture that makes health the norm
and not the exception.
Eric Adams is Brooklyn borough
Dr. David L. Katz and Jennifer
Lutz are Founder and Director of True
TIMESLEDGER,QNS.COM NOV. 1-7, 2019 9