No, not atomic radiation or toxic chemicals such as dioxin that have been proven to trigger cancer. No, a pair of TV hucksters want the public to believe that it’s beef that’s the real culprit.
I never cease to be amazed at the hubris with which so many self-proclaimed nutritional authorities deliver pronouncements to their disciples — without so much as a hint of acknowledgement of the contradictions embedded in their statements.
Here’s a classic example, an article that’s been picked up by several media monitoring services, thanks to the celebrity status of its authors: Dr. Mehmet Oz, of TV’s Dr. Oz Show, and his partner Dr. Mike Roizen, an anesthesiologist at the Cleveland Clinic. I’ll accord some credibility to Dr. Roizen on the subject of nutrition, since he serves as the clinic’s Chief Wellness Officer, although I can guarantee that the Cleveland Clinic’s bottom line has absolutely nothing to do with any wellness programs Dr. Roizen might be supervising.
In a post on LongevityLive.com titled, “The YOU Doctors Talk Red Meat and Breast Cancer,” the pair opened with the following sentence:
“Although U.S. beef consumption is down from a startling 77 lbs. per person per year in 1985 to around 48 lbs.” — [both of those amounts are incorrect, by the way] — “that’s still way too much.”
Talk about simply announcing your biases right upfront as you launch into what is supposed to be a scientifically sound, objective argument.
“We’ve often reported that eating red meat amps up all causes of death by 20 percent,” they continued, “and now there’s even more evidence of the harm it can do.”
Of course, it’s no surprise that Dr. Oz, a confirmed meat hater, doesn’t bother talking about any science that doesn’t support his agenda — and it should be noted that his agenda isn’t the classic vegan mantra that animals should play no role whatsoever in human society, other than serving as rescued companion animals with rights equal to the people who house and feed them. Instead, Dr. Oz and pals are on a vendetta against beef and beef alone.
Judge for yourself, as the good doctors reveal the platform on which they base their nutritional prescription.
“A new study found a 22 percent increased risk of breast cancer among women who regularly ate red meat during their early adulthood (about 10 servings per week), compared with those who ate less than one-and-a-half servings per week.”
Let’s stipulate that yes, there are data showing a statistical association between higher self-reported red meat consumption and a greater reported incidence of breast cancer. But let’s also recognize that associations do not constitute proof of cause-and-effect, and whenever dietary studies are involved, the range of confounding factors is extensive — not to mention that self-reported data are notoriously unreliable.
Wrong on all counts
But back to the docs:
“Fortunately, the study also shows that you’re not doomed if you were a youthful red-meat eater,” they wrote. “You can slash your risk for breast cancer by making changes in your diet, starting right now.”
If you buy the notion that beef is somehow carcinogenic — because that’s essentially what they’re claiming — then their advice might make sense, except that it’s ridiculous on its face.
“If you’re premenopausal and you eliminate one serving of red meat from your diet and add one serving of skinless poultry, you’ll reduce your risk of breast cancer by over 17 percent,” they wrote. “Do that post-menopause, and your risk declines by 24 percent.”
Again, those percentages are calculations based on macro data from epidemiological studies, not conclusions based on the scientific method of testing the results of an intervention (cutting back on red meat) compared with the results of a similar control group not receiving the intervention.
That caveat applies to all diet and health studies, of course, not just ones reviewed by openly biased, agenda-driven TV hucksters. The other problem here is that Oz and Roizen recommended skinless poultry as a substitute for beef.
That is wrong on so many levels.
For one, skinless chicken is the costliest source of white meat protein, which suggests the good doctors are seriously estranged from the economic realities impacting two-thirds of American families these days.
For another, skinless poultry is like nonfat milk. What, pray tell, are producers and processors supposed to do with the fat they remove (because that’s why chicken is sold skinless, to cater to people obsessed with their fat intake)? Feed it to pets, I guess, since nobody except total nut jobs suggest that dogs or cats can thrive on a fat-free diet.
“Imagine how much healthier you’d be if you limited your red meat intake to no more than one 85- to 160-gram serving a week, and added three weekly servings of omega-3-rich fish such as salmon and ocean trout and nine servings of veggies and fruit a day,” the doctors wrote.
For the record, 85 grams is about 3 ounces, so if you’re “indulging” in beef consumption three times a week, then what you’d be eating is essentially one ounce — one bite.
One bite of beef for the day, and only three days a week. Who eats one bite of anything? Ever?
I suspect that even as the dietary purists Drs. Oz and Roizen pretend to be, one bite of food would never be enough.
But they make their living telling the rest of us how to live.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator.