Unprocessed Red Meat and Processed Meat Consumption: Dietary Guideline Recommendations From the Nutritional Recommendations Consortium is an article published this month in  the Annals of Internal Medicine. It examines the potential benefits and harms of eating red meat and processed meats. Like most dietary recommendations both in the popular and medical press opinions about meat consumption are not typically based on solid science.

The following is cut and pasted from The paper in the Annals. It was prompted by the need for dietary guideline recommendations to require consideration of the certainty in the evidence, the magnitude of potential benefits and harms, and explicit consideration of people’s values and preferences. A set of recommendations on red meat and processed meat consumption was developed on the basis of 5 de novo systematic reviews that considered all of these issues. The target audience for our guidance statement was individuals who consume unprocessed red meat or processed meat as part of their diet. The panel took the perspective of individual decision making rather than a public health perspective.

Not surprisingly a lot of the evidence is not strong. The panel considered all-cause mortality, major cardiometabolic outcomes (cardiovascular mortality, stroke, myocardial infarction, and diabetes), cancer incidence and mortality (gastrointestinal, prostate, and gynecologic cancer), quality of life, and willingness to change unprocessed red or processed meat consumption as “critically important” for developing recommendations.

After a lot of literature review and apparently much soul searching the investigators concluded that there was little or no evidence that reducing processed meat intake as well as reducing red meat intake conveyed any health benefit. The panel suggests that adults continue current unprocessed red meat consumption . Similarly, the panel suggests adults continue current processed meat consumption.

These recommendations should come as no surprise to anyone who has cast a cold eye on what passes for scientific dietary advice. Much of it is based on wishful thinking and the desire to make eating an unpleasant enterprise. In general, your diet (I’m assuming you don’t have a disease that requires dietary modification) should be whatever your taste requests as long as you keep your weight under reasonable control. A BMI of 25-30 is a reasonable target. The widely published “normal” BMI 0f 18-25 is probably too low. So don’t feel guilty when you have your next baloney sandwich or juicy steak.

As I’ve emphasized here before, your health outcomes mostly depend on luck, having the right parents, and not doing foolish things. While you can’t do much about the first two, you can avoid foolishness.