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Ah, Science.


Ah, Science.

4, 4:00 minute rounds on 1 minute rest:
7 hang power snatch (75/55)
10 burpee

The tunnel of front squats - big efforts all around.

Food For Thought

Last week, a Harvard Medical study was released that concluded, “Eating red meat — any amount and any type — appears to significantly increase the risk of premature death, according to a long-range study that examined the eating habits and health of more than 110,000 adults for more than 20 years.”

You can find a link to the article here: 
Risk: More Red Meat, More Mortality 

An LA Times subtitle read: “A long-term study finds that eating any amount and any type increases the risk of premature death.”

After an uproar among the meat eating folks of the world, Gary Taubes, author of Good Calories, Bad Calories responded to the claim on his blog.

You can find a link to his article here: 
Science, Pseudoscience, Nutritional Epidemiology, and Meat
And a link to a dissection of the study here: 
Red Meat & Mortality & the Usual Bad Science 

Check out the articles.  What do you think?  Is meat eating the silent killer that will send all of us CrossFitting-Paleo-eating-folk to an early death or is this a big claim supported by little science?  Post to comments.

11 Responses

  1. Bones

    Re: red meat.  I don’t think it is helpful for those of us who eat meat to react to these studies in a knee-jerk fashion.  You will see studies that come to this conclusion, then a responsive study that comes to the opposite conclusion.  I think it is healthy for us all (even us omnivores) to carefully read and think about these things and fairly consider the conclusions.  And while it is pretty easy to reject absolutism (“any red meat in any amount” ignores the significant differences between industrial-raised,feedlot corn-fed beef and free range grass fed bison, for example), it might be helpful to consider the results in the context of the types and amounts of red meat (or any other food) we consume.  Just sayin’.

    1. Amy Santamaria

       Definitely agree about the source of the meat, grain-fed vs. grass-fed.  That’s a great point – all meat is not the same.  It’s taken me some time to realize just how important that is. 

      It is true that there are valid points of contention in nutrition research.  The biochemistry of nutrition is seriously complicated.  That’s why I get so frustrated with media coverage that tries to whittle complex relationships down to a sound bite. 

      But while its tempting to just say results are mixed, it is really important to critique studies and their methods to understand which studies deserve more weight.  Just because the answers to a question are mixed doesn’t mean there is no answer.  It means we need to dig deeper, and often that means understanding why studies get the answers they do.  Gary Taubes does a great job of broaching these issues, in his articles, his books, and on his blog.   Reading his stuff offers a great crash course in scientific method for the non-scientist. 

  2. Amy Santamaria

    Yeah, the blogosphere was exploding with this last week.  I think Robb Wolf says it better than I can:

    As Gary Taubes explains, the science is very clear on this issue, and the methods in the Harvard study are not science.  But few people can tell the difference.  If only our educational system actually taught critical thinking and the scientific method, the public could be better informed and not so easily swayed by flawed studies and skewed media coverage.  But if not, fine, there’s more meat for me.  

  3. TYD

    The main CF site makes an interesting move by implying things not said in the NY Times article.  I think in spoken conversation it would be referred to as putting words in the mouth.

    The exact wording on the mainsite link from Monday was:
    “The NY Times laughably claimed eating red meat increases the risk of death. Fortunately, Zoe Harcombe explains the flaws in their study.”

    I read that as Crossfit implying a claim of causality (when the Harvard paper simply illustrates correlation and proposes a hypothesis about reduced mortality associated with reduced meat consumption) and then turns around and launches a counter-attack based on the fact that analysis by itself is not science.

    Interestingly, the word “science” does not appear once in the NY Times article, but don’t let that absence distract you from’s important message: this article suggests a silly alternative to the paleo/zone diet and IT’S NOT SCIENCE!!

    It’s obvious to anyone who gives it more than 5 seconds of undivided attention that all the confounding variables that Zoe mentions (and more!) make the complexity of determining exact cause-and-effect relationships between individual environmental/behavioral factors and longevity enormous.

    Genetic predisposition is, I suspect, one of the most significant confounding variables and a pink elephant in the room, yet I haven’t heard any discussion of it.  Proponents of a particular diet don’t want to talk about it because if it turns out to be overwhelmingly important, then subscribing to a particular diet doesn’t really make much difference. 

    There are lots of old people, who got that way either eating meat along the way or not, so I’d argue that the longevity implications of being an omnivore is not something worth being terribly worried about.

    Here’s a beef-related question that might make folks look at things from a different angle: when there are human people in our world/country/state/city who lack safe drinking water and/or go hungry, is it morally acceptable to divert as many resources as we do to raise livestock so a few of us can spend some time living a step higher on the ecological energy pyramid?

    Did you know the biomass of cattle is on the same order of magnitude as the biomass of humans?  Who is working for who here?

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