Flawed Studies, Incorrect Reporting, & Irresponsible Sharing Part I: Red Meat

(less than 4 minute read)

The Harvard Meat Study of 2012

This particular study (stating that red meat causes cancer & heart disease) is a perfect example of how an observational study can shape or validate our ideas, cause incredible confusion, form public health policy, and be terribly flawed. Every few months this report, or copies of it, pops back up in my feed and I want to reach through the interwebs and slap some people. Not because I enjoy red meat, and feel implicated in each share, but because this type of irresponsibility is rampant in medicine and nutrition- it causes confusion so patients do not receive proper information or adequate treatment, and then we have to do a lot of work to undo the misinformation.

Content writers around the world gobble this stuff up like candy. They don’t do any further digging, they don’t question the study, and often times will mis-report on the findings causing further (misleading) information. Remember those bullshit articles about how drinking wine is the equivalent to an hour at the gym, because of one nutrient in the skins of grapes? It’s like a sick game of “operator” and we’re left at the end shaking our heads and swiftly writing articles of correction. No wonder so many of my patients are confused about which way is up in medicine. There’s so much noise out there!

This isn’t a scientific study, it’s an observational study. If you remember fourth grade, you will recall that a scientific study starts off with a hypothesis. An idea, an observation that requires further investigation. Human knowledge is based on this process- observations that lead to exploration of the causation of the phenomenon. Great! A question is asked, and a hypothesis is formed. Experiments are coordinated, and then carried out, further observations are made, and the hypothesis is either accepted or rejected. Awesome! Science! I love it!!

I am not a paid content writer. It’s my day off and I would much rather have another cup of coffee and watch the birds at the bird feeder. But I can’t sit back any longer and watch this happen to smart and educated people. My intention is to lead you to think and disseminate information for yourself, rather than follow my opinions. I would like us to be a more discerning reader and sharer of good information, and consumer of proper nutrition, exercise, and medical treatments. I hope that in the future, if you see an article being passed around as you’ll be able to, within a few sentences, recognize whether or not it’s gossip, garbage, selling you something, or indeed… science!

A Scientific Weapon of Mass Destruction: observational epidemiology, at least for public health policy.”

Observational studies can be very useful in showing linkages between simple things, like contaminated drinking water and cholera. Like smoking and lung disease. They are not useful for something like red meat and cancer, with so many confounding factors. The problem is that so many people share these flawed studies, news outlets catch wind and also report, and then some public health policy is then shaped based on the conclusions. It’s irresponsible, unethical, and journalists who report on these unsubstantiated findings are not helping one bit.

According to the Harvard Meat Study of 2012, there is no actual proof that consumption of red meat increases your risk of developing cancer, heart disease, or diabetes any more than maple leaves do.

My second favorite MD, expert on longevity and lifespan, host of a weekly podcast, and where I got most of the information for this article, Dr. Peter Attia describes and warns against these types of studies as a “Scientific Weapon of Mass Destruction: observational epidemiology, at least for public health policy.”

Here’s the kicker, quoted from Dr. Attia, on how these types of studies are typically done:

“What the researchers do in these studies is follow a cohort of several tens of thousands of people—nurses, health care professionals, AARP members, etcetera—and they ask them what they eat with a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) that is known to be almost fatally flawed in terms of its ability to accurately acquire data about what people really eat.  Next, the researchers correlate disease states, morbidity, and maybe even mortality with food consumption, or at least reported food consumption (which is NOT the same thing). So, the end products are correlations—eating food X is associated with a gain of Y pounds, for example. Or eating red meat three times a week is associated with a 50% increase in the risk of death from falling pianos or heart attacks or cancer.”

Consuming red meat does not cause heart disease or cancer, but a lifestyle typical of a person who eats a lot of red meat, processed foods, consumes few vegetables, and doesn’t exercise, can. There were too many confounding causal factors in these observations to link it to just red meat. Dr Zoe Harcombe does a great job of really getting into the deep details of this study, if you would like more nerdery.

To bring this home, I could tell you: Eating oatmeal increases your risk of heart disease.
Does it really? No, it doesn’t, any more than maple leaves or consuming red meat. What we could infer from observation, is that people who eat oatmeal suffer more heart disease. Why? Because typically more elderly people eat oatmeal, and the elderly tend to suffer more heart disease than younger people. We could say any number of things along this line: Grey hair leads to glaucoma, bad jokes, and high wasted pants. This demonstrates that we are making incorrect links between cause and effect. You all should be very pleased about this, since we’re laying the groundwork for notions such as: Vaccines do not cause autism. And that’s not something you hear often from a practitioner of alternative medicine.

I’m not saying any of this in order to embarrass or call anyone out. Humans do not innately think scientifically. Evolution has hardwired us to be followers, we observe how others thrive (or languish), and mimick (or avoid) those behaviors. It wasn’t until the last approximately .02% of human existence where we actually started applying scientific methodology to our thinking. It is difficult for us to go so far out of our way to unlearn these behaviors in order to apply logic to situations.

We think that logically, this study makes sense. We want to trust these institutions, and other seemingly reputable journals of medicine. Because of what we have learned in the past about cholesterol (albeit wrong), we nod our heads and agree, “Why yes! Of course red meat causes cancer and heart disease.” But that’s not proven through this study. What’s shown is a correlation between certain lifestyles and metabolic disease, cancer, and heart disease. This is not a scientific study, in the way that we all learned in fourth grade, to the degree of experimentation. I said before, human knowledge is formed from observation to causal factors. The next step is to experiment.  Correlation does not necessarily imply causation, rather an indication for more exploration.

Properly sourced red meat has many beneficial nutrients, among them the full range of B vitamins, iron, essential amino acids, and essential fats. I’m not going to eat it every day, but I will tonight.

(ht to Dr. Harcombe)

Master Metaphysician, John Villalobos, visits Pekoe!

We are super excited to host one of our original Pekoe dream team while he is back in DC for a spell! Some of you long-timers might even remember the last time he was in town and lead a (quite popular!) evening of salsa dancing and lessons! Along with being fun and charismatic, he is an incredible healer, and his work is deep and altering. Please enjoy….

John C. Villalobos is a Ph.D candidate for Integrative and Preventative Healing at Delphi University. He specializes in RoHun Transformation Therapy, and is a Certified Master Metaphysician and Inner Sanctuary Meditation Instructor. With over 13 years experience in the field of holistic health, John's passion is to guide clients to heal the emotional/spiritual root causes of pain and dis-ease, while assisting them in expanding into higher states of consciousness and love. John's other passion is music; he plays pre-World War II country blues guitar.

John is visiting Pekoe for the month of October before heading back to his home in Ecuador, where he hosts retreats for those ready for intense inner transformation and healing. Book online to experience his powerful energy work!

RoHun Transformation Therapy (2.5 hours):

An effective and rapid-acting spiritual psychotherapy that incorporates guided visualization and energy healing techniques to heal deep, emotional wounds and shadows. This process of inner transformation uses the power of understanding, love, and forgiveness to create the shifts necessary for letting go of the past, clearing negative thoughts and emotions, and connecting to your inner power so you can bring more joy and fulfilling relationships into your life.

Kundalini Energization (60 Min):

In this energy healing session, John activates your kundalini energy and draws it up through the chakras to awaken higher energy centers and open your intuitive vision, evoking a mystical experience in which a sacred connection is made between you and Spirit.

If you would like to experience both for a discount, we recommend you start with a RoHun session, then a week+ later experience Energization.

Let Us Help You with Repetitive Stress

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Do any of you remember the Charlie Chaplin movie Modern Times? It’s the story of a factory worker who is forced to test a new piece of equipment (essentially the conveyor belt,) and since he spends all his time doing the same thing over and over and over again, he slowly has a nervous breakdown and gets sent to the insane asylum.

That was actually a real problem back in the days where we used to make things here. Labor Unions actually helped to provide factory workers with decent salaries, and that helped alleviate things somewhat, but the fact remained that people spent hours essentially doing the same thing over and over and over again.

Almost every blue collar town had an enormous amount of guys with bad backs and trick knees. If you lived in a town with a lot of assembly line work, there were more men of working age who were limping than weren’t. And aside from the physical problems, repetitive physical labor also had a tendency to aggravate the psyche of workers (as illustrated by Mr. Chaplin.)

These twinges and aches and pains are called “repetitive stress injuries.” These are different than an injury that happens all at once. These are aches and pains and strains that build up over time, often by using one particular part of your body to do the same thing over and over again. Sometimes people with repetitive stress injuries sort of become used to them, and don’t even view them as something that needs to be treated, and that’s when they lead to even more severe injuries and conditions.

There might not be a lot of manufacturing jobs left in the United States, particularly in the DC area. But there are still a lot of repetitive stress injuries cropping up. The repetitive stress injuries we see these days have a tendency to be micro rather than macro. For instance, a conveyor belt worker at a Chrysler plant in 1979 would have repetitive stress injuries in his knees, wrists, and back. Nowadays, we see repetitive stress injuries that reflect the work that people are doing now. Graphic designers get wrist and finger strains from operating a mouse 8 to 10 hours a day. Everyone gets sore thumbs from sending a million texts and posting 100 tweets every day. People get severe headaches from staring at screens all day, or their necks and backs are sore from hunching over their PC’s at work.

You might be thinking that this sort of thing is no big deal, and you would be wrong. In the first place, any strain or injury should be treated. Also, not treating a strain or injury will not only make the injury worse, but will probably lead to other injuries. If my wrist starts to constantly hurt due to working my mouse, I will start to favor that wrist, and perhaps start using the muscles in my forearm to work the mouse instead. My forearm is now being used over and over again in ways that it isn’t used to, so now it’s starting to hurt as well. So in not treating the initial problem, I’ve given myself two problem areas for the price of one.

So what to do regarding those aches and pains in your fingers and wrists that seem unavoidable if you want to make a living? Do you just “muscle through it,” in the hopes that it will magically get better on its own?

Of course not.

Massage and acupuncture are two great ways to help treat your repetitive stress injuries. Both are effective at relieving pain from using the same muscle group in the same constricted and limited ways over and over again, and both are effective at relaxing those muscle groups so they are under less stress and strain. So in terms of helping with repetitive stress injuries, acupuncture and massage can both prevent it from occurring in the first place.

Here’s our recommendation: First, if you are coming in here on a regular basis for massage or acupuncture, and your job involves repetitive motion, let your practitioner know. Tell them specifically what you do, and more importantly, tell them how you do it. They can not only treat those muscle groups, but can also give you some ideas as to how to conserve those muscle groups while you work. It’s preventive maintenance at its finest.

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Your way of earning a living doesn’t have to wreck your health and comfort. Come see us as soon as you can, tell us about your work, and let us set a course of treatment for you.

WINTER REMEDIES

The weather turns, the winds pick up, and someone close to you sneezes. An ominous shudder comes over you: Is this the cold that will do you in this fall?This page will cover some resources to help you keep on top of how to stay ahead of the ick or shorten the duration of a current bug. Fall and winter don’t have to be horrible… don’t let yourself get run down, and if you do, you can turn it around! Keep up with your regular acupuncture treatments, and help yourself to some home care.

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Yes, We Do Fire Cupping!

Remember when Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Aniston were all bruised up on the red carpet? Then the winter Olympics 2010 in China, when the Chinese divers’ backs were covered in hickey marks? Just recently we saw Michael Phelps and other American swimmers in the Summer Olympics with dark bruise-like marks on their backs and shoulders. The media explodes, again, with “What is this strange phenomenon?”

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Ayurvedic Secrets for the Autumn Blues

Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) affects many of us and causes us to dread the onset of autumn and winter. S.A.D. is believed to be caused by changes in light, more specifically a lack of light. But to really solve the puzzle of how to not dread the change of season, we must first recognize it’s not just about the dark! Ayurveda points to many other factors that are in play this time of year that affect mood and by understanding and addressing them we can make friends with this season.

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Q&A with LEAH BARR, CAS

Leah is a graduate of the California College of Ayurveda. She lives in Washington, DC where she is a mother of two and a yoga teacher.  She did her undergraduate work at Kenyon College in Ohio and directed and taught a K-3 art program in DC after graduation and before having children.  She has been studying yoga since 1992 and has been lucky enough to study extensively with many preeminent yoga scholars and teachers...

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THE BODY TYPE SPECTRUM & WHY IT MATTERS

Remember that 5 minute middle school science lesson— the one where you learned about the three body types: Ectomorph (the slight frame), mesomorph (the moderate frame), and endomorph (the larger, stockier frame)?  While we may be taught a vague notion of different body types in grade school, we are generally not taught about how important this knowledge is for our health.  Instead, we are conditioned to aspire to be somewhere on the ectomorph to mesomorph spectrum regardless of our natural type.

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Seasonal Shifts and Waters of the Body

by Leah Barr, Clinical Ayurvedic Practitioner

Autumn:  Time to Check in

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Minding the transition of Summer into Fall is one of the lesser known, but very important things we can do to lay the foundation for our overall health and happiness throughput the year.  The Ayurvedic premise– that our bodies are strongly affected by the environment— stems from the obvious but sometimes overlooked wisdom that the body and its processes are by definition an extension of nature.  This means that when we observe overt or subtle environmental change we can assume those changes are affecting the internal workings of the body.  As we observe the most marked aspect of autumn, the drying up and falling away of almost all surrounding summer greenery, we can know with total certainty that these same drying forces are at work in the body.

According to Ayurveda (regarding this particular summer to fall transition), any dryness we may have accumulated from the summer heat is exacerbated by the drying winds of autumn. An accumulation or excess of dryness can show up in various systems of the body like skin, the digestive system, the mind. Dry skin, digestive issues, constipation, anxiety, or a feeling of being scattered are some symptoms commonly associated with this time of year. Since we are not culturally oriented to associate symptoms with the weather it can be hard for us to connect the dots between symptoms and seasonal change, but from an Ayurvedic point of view they are deeply related.

While it is normal and expected to experience seasonal bodily changes, the tools of Ayurveda are there to keep us from going out of balance— helpful (and preventative) to those who feel mildly affected, invaluable to those who feel strongly affected.

The Antidote to Autumn Dryness is the Water Element   

In Ayurveda the dryness and windiness of the autumn are considered to be aspects of the air element. The antidote to excessive air element is water element: Mid-August and through September, October, and November is therefore a great time to cultivate the water element and tend to deep hydration and lubrication of the tissues of the body through diet, herbs, and even lifestyle practices.

It is an important time to build what’s called in Ayurveda the rasa dhatu. Rasa connotes the proverbial sap or juiciness in the body and essentially refers to the waters of the body in the form of lymph, plasma, and interstitial fluid. When the rasa dhatu is healthy and well-tended a person feels content, satiated, and fluid in their body and mind, and a healthy rasa dhatu ensures a smoother transition across the threshold from summer to fall and onward.

Tending the Waters of the Body and Internal Plumbing

Aside from staying hydrated, water element comes in the form of some of the heavier foods like nuts, high quality fats and oils, dairy, dates, avocados, high quality grains, and even small amounts of meat for non-vegetarians. A healthy rasa dhatu is not simply about consuming these foods but is very much about how we are digesting them. This is where the internal plumbing comes in– To what degree is our system able to transform water element into healthy rasa? To what degree is our system able to circulate water element throughout the body and carry it to the deeper tissues?

Internal plumbing has to do with the quality of our digestion as it is influenced by any number of factors– the food we eat, how we use spices, our stress levels, the way we exercise, our unique constitutional tendencies, and more… Many of us need a little help in this department to ensure that water element is being circulated and absorbed.

Autumn is a great time to make the inquiry into how the waters of your body are flowing!

Leah Barr offers in-depth consultations for Ayurvedic work as well as guided cleanses.

AYURVEDIC NUTRITION

Ayurveda is a comprehensive discipline that encompasses nutrition and offers life-long principles of healthy eating practices

Our bodies are perfectly evolved to reap the abundant offerings of nature. The six tastes found in food — sweet, sour, salty, astringent, bitter, and pungent — reflect the broad spectrum of what nature is offering, and taste itself reflects the intrinsic intelligence in the body’s capacity to gravitate to the food it needs.

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