Log in Join Grass Roots Action


Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Washington, D.C. – A careful read of the study published in the January 12 Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) shows that the study’s findings are badly out of synch with JAMA’s press release.

While a headline on the study's embargoed press release reads "Long-term High Consumption of Red and Processed Meat Linked With Increased Risk for Colon Cancer," the study itself says "High intake of red and processed meat reported in 1992/1993 was associated with higher risk of colon cancer after adjusting for age and energy intake, but not after further adjustment for body mass index, cigarette smoking and other covariates." This means that when the statisticians factored in the effects of body mass index, alcohol consumption, dietary fiber, fruit and vegetable consumption, smoking, alcohol consumption, and a host of other factors, there was no significant association between red meat consumption and cancer. In other words, the headline is not supported by the data.

“Putting the ‘Red Meat Causes Cancer’ headline on these data is like putting the ‘Dewey Defeats Truman’ headline on the 1948 Presidential Election outcome. The two don’t add up,” said AMI Foundation Vice President of Scientific Affairs Dr. Randy Huffman. “Instead, the data continue to support the fact that the relationship between diet and cancer is a complex relationship and that it is difficult – if not impossible – to isolate one factor from another.”

Huffman also noted that this research is epidemiological in nature, meaning it involves questionnaires, calculators and statistics -- not laboratories. “Epidemiological research is not designed to establish cause and effect. Rather, it is designed to identify areas for possible further research,” he said. “The weak associations noted in this paper are not conclusive. Every scientist lives by the phrase "association does not imply causation" and the conclusions implied by this press release clearly violate this scientific principle. In fact, this study is just one more in a long line of epidemiological studies that have shown no association, or a weak association, between meat consumption and cancer.”

The study is based in part on voluntary consumer questionnaires collected more than 20 years ago -- snapshots in time based on consumers’ recollections of what they ate in previous years. "Meat products have changed substantially in the last two decades and are significantly leaner than ever before," Huffman said. "Conclusions based upon the weak associations in this study, using 20 year old data, may have little relevance to modern meat consumption."

What should consumers do in the wake of this news? “Consumers are best advised to eat a balanced diet as advised by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, get plenty of exercise, maintain a healthy weight and avoid smoking,” Huffman said. “While this common sense advice may not be earth-shattering or new, it is clearly the wisest course of action and IS supported by leading medical experts.”

For more information, visit meatsafety.org

For more information contact:
David Ray
Vice President, Public Affairs
Janet Riley
Sr. VP, Public Affairs

 share on facebook  share on twitter