“Men and women with higher intake of red meat were less likely to be physically active and were more likely to be current smokers, to drink alcohol, and to have a higher body mass index). In addition, a higher red meat intake was associated with a higher intake of total energy but lower intakes of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.”
That quote comes directly from the research report from the Harvard School of Public Health, which was widely covered in the consumer media with headlines essentially saying “eating red meat will kill you.”
The study, reported in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, involved surveys and health tracking of a large number of subjects over a period of 22 years. The researchers found a higher incidence of red-meat consumption among study participants who developed diseases or died during the study period.
The opening quote illustrates a problem with this type of research, especially when researchers, or the media, draw conclusions not supported by the study’s design. The researchers, in this case, concluded greater consumption of red meat is “associated” with higher mortality risk. The media, naturally, interpreted that to mean one thing causes the other and “red meat will kill you.”
I would suggest that in reality, the study shows an “association” between people’s overall lifestyles and their level of red-meat consumption.