Researchers taking a fresh look at the hazards of eating red meat believe they may have killed a sacred cow of nutritional advice. In a paper published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, an international group of experts says evidence that red meat causes heart disease and cancer is weak at best and most people shouldn't feel the need to cut down. Researcher Bradley Johnston says the panel of 14 researchers analyzed past studies and found "only low-certainty evidence of a very small reduction in cancer or other adverse health consequences." "For most people who enjoy eating meat, the uncertain health benefits of cutting down are unlikely to be worth it," he says. Only three of the panelists said they supported advice for the public to reduce consumption of red and processed meats.
"Is 15 fewer cases per 1,000 of cancer followed over a lifetime—is that important enough for an individual to cut off or lower their intake? We would leave that up to them," Johnston tells NBC. A group of prominent scientists, however, slammed the research and called for publication to be delayed until their concerns were addressed, the AP reports. Among other criticisms, they said the paper's authors based advice not to bother reducing red meat on an average of three servings a week, but many people eat one serving a day. Harvard researcher Dr. Frank Hu, author of a recent study that linked red meat to a higher mortality risk, called the paper "irresponsible and unethical," the New York Times reports. He said the researchers were looking for the same standard of evidence as in trials of experimental drugs, which is very difficult to do with nutritional studies. (Read more red meat stories.)