New NutriRECS guidelines: eating less meat for health purposes is useless

Red and processed meats are still too often accused of being harmful to health and increasing the risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and all-cause mortality. Increasingly studies show precisely that this is not the case.

No health risk with moderate consumption of red meat and processed meat. Further confirmation comes from NutriRECS, an independent group with widespread experience in developing nutritional guidelines.

Researchers published the new guidelines using an innovative process focusing exclusively on the results obtained by observing the health effects of moderate consumption of red and processed meat. It includes a rigorous methodology of a systematic review and the GRADE approach (Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development, and Evaluation) to assess the certainty of evidence. It is adopted by more than 120 healthcare organizations worldwide, including the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control, and the Cochrane Nutrition Field, based on more than 30 peer-reviewed articles, using a higher degree of certainty needed to support causal relationships.

According to the new #NutriRECS #NutritionalGuidelines, moderate consumption of #RedMeat and #ProcessedMeat pose no risk to #health. Click To Tweet

The current nutritional recommendations invite to limit red and processed meats, mainly basing themselves on observational studies without randomization. They have low scientific quality and substantial limitations in establishing the causality and the absolute value of any effects. This is due to the lack of reference to more rigorous systematic reviews and confounding factors (the overall lifestyle that can be composed of bad choices, such as smoking, little physical activity, an unbalanced diet with abuse of unhealthy foods). In addition, data collection is self-reported or based on interviews, so there is a high risk of being inaccurate or misremembering what and how much is consumed.

Researchers found that, among the 12 randomized control trials involving 54,000 people, there was no conclusive and credible evidence that a reduction in red and processed meat consumption carries a lower risk of cancer, heart disease, or diabetes. On the contrary, they found a reduced risk for these diseases and some types of cancers with moderate meat consumption. That is why international dietary guidelines should not be formulated for the entire population based on limited, inaccurate, and unreliable studies. Still, the certainty of evidence and the absence of confounding factors are necessary.

Current nutritional recommendations to limit #RedMeat and #ProcessedMeat are based on #ObservationalStudies without #randomisation, with low #ScientificQuality. Click To Tweet

The NutriRECS study wanted to calculate an accurate and specific risk estimate, considering all these aspects. The study developed new recommendations on red and processed meat consumption based on five systematic reviews of high scientific quality. These new dietary guidelines are based on eight standards set by the Institute of Medicine, including the need for systematic reviews and meta-analyses, the evaluation of evidence, and the a priori development of detailed study protocols. These are publicly available, thus allowing scientists to plan the study and statistical analysis methods to obtain certainty of the evidence.

Considering the panel members’ previous public positions and eating habits is also a great novelty to eliminate potential conflicts of interest and total intellectual honesty. All this has been successfully achieved by NutriRECS scientists, producing guidelines that have been defined as “highest quality”, specifically regarding red and processed meat, with precise results on health effects. This goal has never been previously achieved, being the first to present data on the dose-response based on the dose of meat consumed.

The #NutriRECS study estimated accurately the #risk by developing a set of recommendations from scratch on the consumption of #RedMeat and #ProcessedMeat. Click To Tweet

Researchers point out that people should be fully informed of the lack of certainty of the evidence on which current recommendations are based, which companies use instrumentally to influence consumer behaviour. The reality that emerges from all these new, more accurate scientific studies is that red and processed meat consumption cannot be a causal factor of adverse health effects. The advantages due to its reduction are practically null. In other words, eating less meat for health purposes is useless, indeed counterproductive.

According to the #NutriRECS study, eating less #meat for #health purposes is useless, indeed counterproductive. Click To Tweet


Agronomist, nutritional consultant and scientific writer, author and co-author of 11 scientific publications and numerous articles on human nutrition and its impact on health and environment. In 2010 she received the title of Doctor Europaeus and PhD in Animal Production, Health and Food Hygiene in countries with a Mediterranean climate.