Researchers at Harvard Medical School reported last month that consumption of red meat greatly increased the risk of death from all causes. Their 16 year study found that each extra three ounces of red meat eaten daily increases one's risk of cardiovascular disease by 16%, cancer by 10% and death from all causes by 12%.
However, this week researchers at the Coalition for a Balanced Diet - a group funded mostly be large U.S. meat companies - have presented a contrasting study. The new study finds that people who follow a strictly vegetarian diet actually increase their risk of all cancers by a whopping 385%. This striking conclusion would mean that excluding meat from one's diet contributes more to one's cancer risk than any other single cause - including smoking.
"We can't be certain why red meat is so good for your health until more studies are done."
The carefully crafted study followed for ten years a group of 2,000 middle aged adults in the United States who had no dietary constraints. The control group consisted of 1,800 adults in Eastern Europe on a strict vegetarian diet.
The team researchers are unsure why vegetarians are at such an increased risk. "Our basic hypothesis red meat contains some sort of yet undetected micronutrients that have protective effects. But we can't be certain why red meat is so good for your health until more studies are done."
However other scientists were skeptical of the new claims because the group of vegetarians was recruited exclusively from north central Ukraine, a region heavily affected by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident.
"You can't really do a proper prospective study on cancer rates using test subjects who were exposed to high levels of raidation in a nuclear power accident.."
The Coalition for a Balanced Diet had no comment on the record.