Today there was a very controversial news in the Huffington Post about the cancer inducing properties of meats and processed meats (sausages, bacon -OM NOM NOM!-, franks and others). This news, other than being heaven sent to all vegans, caused a lot of confusions and headlines. For a lot of reasons, and for keeping myself informed so as to keep a rather somewhat healthy lifestyle, I wanted to know what this involved. Reading further there where a lot of red flags that needed clarification. Here are the following red flags that arose and that needed in depths reading:
- Meats were classified as group 2A and processed meats as 1
- Study was based on an epidemiological study
- Methodology of study?
First, I wanted to understand what does an epidemiological study meant. I knew that this means the study of how epidemics propagate and work. But reading a bit further (I know its a wikipedia link but I needed a good summary), and epidemiological study is based on evidence observed in a defined population. Reading from the short wikipedia document, I believe this study has some error. For starters the document doesn’t say the say exactly the type of study. For example, if I study the effect of rum and coke, vodka and coke and whisky and coke on the human body, I can come with the following conclusion: coke causes drunkeness on people. Why? Because I was looking for this correlation. The 800 studies mentioned in the study one could think they were looking for this correlation between cancer and all types of meats. The document doesn’t say clearly. This covers point ii and iii in my opinion.
For the point i, I believe that the headlines made a bigger fuzz than they should. For starters, I didn’t read any that on the headlines mentioned that the classification issue was only for processed meats. I also think that eating a lot of processed meats is not really healthy, considering that the meats used are of dubious origins of the animals (still meat but dubious) they don’t have a high health value in my opinion. Also the difference between the groups in the headline is the following:
Group 1: Carcinogenic to humans
Group 2A: Probably carcinogenic to humans (source: http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Classification/ )
This means that red meats “could” have some relationship to cancer. Currently, I think that everything “could” cause cancer. Specially if you eat a lot of something. Eating an excess of anything is unhealthy or having an excess of anything (even an excess of water is unhealthy). I think that grouping everything into group 1 into the headlines is very sensationalist, specially if not everyone reads the whole article.
Thus, after reading about the categorization of meats, epidemiological studies and the methodology of the study, I believe that all the headlines introduced much disinformation and bias.