There is little evidence of health consequences of red meat and people should continue their consumption, according to new research.
Experts at Dalhousie University and McMaster University, Canada, which highlighted the work of previous findings and its link to adverse risk to health, said the recommendations to cut red meat in the diet were weak and based on low-certainty evidence.
The panel said there was no ‘statistically significant or important association’ in the risk of heart disease, cancer or diabetes for those that consumed less red or processed meat.
As an example, the report showed that if 1,000 people cut out three portions of red or processed meat every week for a lifetime, there would be seven fewer deaths from cancer.
Its work chose to exclusively focus on health outcomes because environmental and animal welfare concerns were ‘very different issues that are challenging to integrate with health concerns’.
Researcher and associate professor Bradley Johnston told the national press: “Based on the research, we cannot say with any certainty that eating red or processed meat causes cancer, diabetes or heart disease.”
It said participants enjoyed eating meat, considered it an essential component of a healthy diet, and tended to be unwilling to change their meat consumption.
AHDB head of meat marketing Liam Byrne said it was heartening to see the ‘positive report’ welcomed by academics as being robust, as previous advice to cut out red meat was ‘based on assumptions’ rather than scientific research.
He said: “This is a shot in the arm for our producers, processors and butchers who have been besieged by negativity around red meat for so long, based on half-truths and ill-informed opinion.
“The study shows evidence suggesting red meat can have an adverse effect on health is weak, at best, and certainly not strong enough to confidently suggest lifestyle changes for those perceived to eat more than the recommended weekly amount of 500g.
“Sadly, we continue to see those with an alternative agenda crying foul and expressing public outrage at this report.”
The National Sheep Association (NSA) added it was ‘not surprised’ to see a new report showing there was no significant link between red meat and cancer.
NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: “This report shows the correlation linking red meat consumption and cancer is limited and shows the evidence is inadequate to support calls for reduced consumption.”