Below is a letter to the editor that I sent to the Seattle Times. I had to cut it down to 200 words, but I thought you might like to see the original.
Response to: “Study: All red meat is bad for you, increases death risk.” News, March 13 and “Food News Can Cause Indigestion,” March 19, 2012.
I was saddened to learn that the American Plains Indians became extinct thousands of years ago because they lived on buffalo; it was a severe deficiency of tofu that killed them off. The Inuit in Alaska, who lived on sea mammals and caribou, something we now know to have been impossible, were obviously fictitious.
Anthropologists tell us that these mythical hunter-gatherers were on average four inches taller than their neighbors who turned to agriculture, and that they had stronger bones, better teeth, and no heart disease, arthritis, or cancer. Thousands of mummies of the ancient Egyptians, who were among the earliest of farming societies, show evidence of all the same maladies that afflict modern man, including obesity, cancer, rotten teeth, and auto-immune diseases.
Perhaps we are the ones who have it all wrong.
The study that made the headlines about red meat was an epidemiological study, which at best can only show that things happened together, not that one caused the other or if some other variable was responsible for the outcome. If you look at the data, you’ll see that the people who ate more red meat also exercised less, smoked more, drank more, and probably engaged in other behavior generally considered unhealthful or risky.
Additionally, the red meat study was based on memory-recall questionnaires, which are notoriously unreliable. I know, because for a while, I was a contributor for a national data-collecting company. (In a weak moment, I took pity on a nice lady who was trying to make her quota of sign-ups.) One of the instructions she gave me for filling out the forms was that if none of the answers fit, I still had to pick “something.”
The truth was not always among the multiple choices, and there was seldom a “not applicable” option. Typical questions asked me to recall what I bought, where I ate, how much I spent, and what I spent it on, in the past week, month, or year. (I’m doing well to remember what I had for breakfast this morning!) I became so frustrated that I quit sending in the forms. I didn’t want anyone making decisions based on my default answers.
(c) 2012, Judy Barnes Baker, www.carbwars.blogspot.com