It’s what every examination of the science of diet and health requires. For too long, authorities have demonized specific foods in an attempt to explain poor health outcomes, or anointed the latest “superfood” a panacea against disease.
That’s more or less the gist of a new article in the New York Times, “Red Meat is Not The Enemy.” The author suggests that experts historically “cherry-pick” data from individual studies to single out one nutrient or food in an attempt to determine its role in human health.
The Totality of Evidence
We agree that this can be a problem, and a misleading one. And that’s precisely why, at the American Institute for Cancer Research, when we perform our ongoing analyses of the global evidence on the connections between cancer risk and lifestyle (read: diet, weight, physical activity), we do so using systematic literature reviews and meta-analyses. (We call it the Continuous Update Project, or CUP.) Read more… “Is Red Meat “The Enemy”? AICR’s Take”
Last week’s release of our latest report from the Continuous Update Project, on liver cancer, received excellent press coverage, for which we are grateful. We know how tough it can be to bottom-line the sometimes complicated findings from scientific research, and we appreciate the good work of those in the media who do so on a daily basis.
Any reporter will tell you that they write the story, but it’s their editor who writes the headlines. And today, headlines do the heavy lifting of driving web traffic and reader engagement. They are the gatekeepers who determine whether or not you click to get the full story, on skim past to the next headline. Which is why, when they’re misleading, they can do real damage.
That’s because of how the paper was promoted and covered: “MOST CANCERS DUE TO BAD LUCK, NOT PREVENTABLE, STUDY FINDS” screamed one headline. But there’s a sharp disconnect between this paper’s findings and the hype surrounding it.
Here at AICR, we fund and analyze the research showing that a healthy weight, a healthy diet and regular physical activity could prevent hundreds of thousands of U.S. cancers every year. We’re concerned that the oversimplified coverage this study received will reinforce the widespread conviction that cancer “just happens” and cause Americans to throw up their hands and ignore the empowering, evidence-based message that everyday choices play an important protective role in risk for many of the most common cancers.