By: Janet Riley
In 2012, consumers were warned that red meat intake increased mortality. The warning stemmed from a paper in the Archives of Internal Medicine. ABC News’ online story led by saying “Eating a single serving of red meat per day may raise the risk of early death, a new study found.” Richard Besser, MD, the network’s medical correspondent called the finding “Huge!”
The New York Times told its readers “More Red Meat, More Mortality.” And one of the researchers, Frank Hu, Ph.D., was quoted by the Times saying, “When you have these numbers in front of you, it’s pretty staggering.” Hu is a member of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.
In 2013, the sirens sounded again, this time from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer.
But now, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has published a study that pools data from studies in eight Asian nations. Studies that pool data together are considered extremely powerful. Their conclusion: no increased risk of mortality was linked to higher red meat consumption. The study’s authors also found that red meat intake decreased cardiovascular disease in men and cancer mortality in women.
When studies find no associations, they are called “null results.” They find no association between a food and a disease – none, nada, null. And that translates into “boring” for the media. This study found “null” results for increased mortality. But it wasn’t “null” on the subject of CVD in men or cancer in women, showing decreases for those who consume more meat.
As you might have guessed, so far, there is no coverage of this study. I emailed the journalist who wrote the piece in 2012 to call his attention this latest development. He hasn’t replied yet.
The media’s lack of interest in “null” studies or studies that contradict the findings they’ve reported earlier about diet and health will continue to challenge our industry and we need to be vigilant in highlighting what radio journalist Paul Harvey always called “The rest of the story.”