The Daily Mail reports:
Scientists at Oxford University say 6,000 Britons could be spared an early grave if red meat products including bacon, steak and sausages cost 70 per cent more.
Their analysis of evidence linking red meat to diabetes, cancer and heart disease concluded that a ‘meat tax’ could provide the answer to the nation’s health woes.
They say such a levy could save the NHS £700 million. But can red meat really be as dangerous for people as alcohol, sugar – and even cigarettes?
The proposals may seem convincing but the evidence behind them is fundamentally flawed. None of the 15 studies analysed by the Oxford team measured the impact of red meat on individual health. No scans, blood tests or physical examinations were involved.
Rather, they relied on epidemiological studies which look at patterns of behaviour in large populations of people.
‘This type of study can be misleading because it does not give cause and effect,’ explains Frankie Phillips, a dietician from the British Dietetic Association.
‘They merely show an association between diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and red-meat consumption in a large group.’
The problem lies with ‘confounding factors’ – other circumstances that increase health risks, but are not fully accounted for in studies. Red-meat-lovers, for example, might be overweight or drink a lot.
RED MEAT IS GOOD FOR YOU TOO!
‘Both processed and unprocessed red meat provide iron, zinc and Vitamin B12, as well as protein,‘ says Phillips. And Tom Sanders, Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics at King’s College, London, says: ‘Some studies show red-meat-eaters are less likely to have a stroke than vegetarians.’
Prof Sanders says there is ‘good evidence’ of a link between eating processed red meat and risk of colorectal cancers, but adds that only one in every 100 cases of colorectal cancer is said to be related to processed red meat, compared to 64,500 of all cancers every year caused by smoking.
The World Health Organisation says the risk is 1.18 times higher if you eat 50 grams of processed red meat every day – roughly two slices of bacon. But the risk of any cancer is 40 times higher if you smoke, and 70 times higher for those who smoke and drink.
Prof Sanders says: ‘We need to assess the diet as a whole. Penalties for eating red meat are not the answer.’