• Cancer

    Grilling the latest red meat intake recommendations

raw beef steak with salt and rosemary

People who cut down their red meat intake by three to four servings a week won't experience much in the way of health benefits, according to a review of evidence recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. However, the article is receiving some criticism from experts.

Dr. Stephen Kopecky, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist who was not involved in the study, says the researchers are claiming a person could continue eating as much meat as they're currently eating, because reducing makes little difference. "But cutting meat consumption by three servings a week could translate to 12 servings down from 15. That's too much red meat," says Dr. Kopecky.

He says this means the study is sending a bit of the wrong message. "If you look at their data, it does say there's a significant reduction in these events — cancers and heart attacks, and dying — but their interpretation is that it's really not much, so let's not do anything about it. Let's continue to eat what we're eating," says Dr. Kopecky.

He adds, "Processed meat has a lot of sodium, a lot of salt, a lot of chemicals that we know can lead to cancer, as well as increase the risk of heart disease." Dr. Kopecky says groups like the World Health Organization and the American Cancer Society continue to advise that people consume less processed meats.

Dr. Kopecky says if patients ask him about this latest research he'll tell them that reducing meat consumption has clearly shown, in multiple studies, to be helpful in reducing the risk of cancer, heart disease and death.