000236 Medical Journal Rebuts Red Meat StudyFebruary 19, 2000
Washington - The following was issued on behalf of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine:
Americans with high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease, take heart. The 14 February -- AKA Valentine's Day -- edition of Archives of Internal Medicine contains information that may save your life.
Responding to last summer's seemingly too-good-to-be-true announcement that lean beef lowers cholesterol as effectively as white meat, Neal D. Barnard, M.D., writes in the journal's current issue that data from the study show that neither red nor white meat lowers cholesterol levels meaningfully.
The study, funded by the Chicago-based National Cattlemen's Beef Association, has been widely touted over the past eight months as “proving” that red meat should be part of a healthy diet.
Participants in the Cattlemen's study assigned to eating red meat saw their total cholesterol levels drop by 1%, as compared to those eating white meat, who experienced a 1.8-percent drop in cholesterol levels.
Both results are too small to prevent most heart attacks.
By contrast, Dr. Barnard points out, diets eliminating all meats -- red and white -- are vastly more effective and more acceptable, to boot. “Studies show that low-fat vegetarian diets -- routinely lower high cholesterol levels by up to 35%. Famed researcher Dean Ornish, M.D., proved in 1990 that more than 80% of heart disease patients were able to reverse their coronary blockages by switching to a low-fat vegetarian diet, combined with mild exercise, stress management, and smoking cessation,” Barnard says.
Dr. Barnard also refutes claims in the study, published on 28 June 1999, that lean meat diets are easier to adhere to than a more far-reaching diet. “On the contrary, a review of 30 intervention trials shows that studies using the strictest diets have the best results,” says Barnard. “Once people start experiencing significant clinical improvements, they're much more likely to stick with a diet. Ineffective diets don't offer the same reward. What's more, the 'side effects' of a low-fat vegetarian diet -- weight loss, blood pressure reduction, and better diabetic control -- are highly desirable.”