Red meat cancer risks may be overstated

Ryan Bridge 01/10/2019

Clinical Guidelines published Tuesday October 1st in the Annals of Internal Medicine recommend continued consumption of red and processed meats.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has since 2015 flagged the products as carcinogenic, with processed meats in particular classified as group 1 for there being, “convincing evidence that the agent causes cancer.”

Lead researcher of the newly published guidelines Dr. Bradley Johnston joins Ryan Bridge on Magic Talk Drive to discuss the reports findings.

Ryan begins the interview by asking Dr Johnston why this report merits consideration over the recommendations of the WHO.

“That’s a good question. I think we have taken some measures that WHO have not. Our study is based on a protocol that is publicly available, and we followed that protocol.

"It’s based on grade methodology which is vetted over the last 20 years for assessing quality of evidence and making guideline recommendations.”

Guideline recommendations need to be made for people who will actually use them.

“In looking at the evidence we found a very small exposure effect based on low quality evidence and based on that we made a weak recommendation that most people can continue their red meat consumption.”

Clarifying who qualifies for continued red meat consumption Bradley says, “mostly otherwise healthy people," he goes on to explain what is meant by a “weak recommendation”.

“By weak recommendation we mean that people should consider the evidence and consider their own values and preferences and make their own personal decisions.”

When asked directly if daily red meat consumption poses a greater carcinogenic risk than a vegetarian diet Bradley confirms, “based on estimates yes, but we’re uncertain if that’s true or not.”

“There’s uncertainty in the evidence, because the randomised control trials have limitations, so they’re not definitive.”

“The majority of data that exists is based on observational studies which we know have major limitations in terms of making causal inferences.”

The problem is they’re not experimental in nature.

When discussing critics and detractors to the research Bradley notes their, “perspective is more from a societal viewpoint while ours is from an individual standpoint.”

You can listen to the full interview above.