Say what you want about 2016, it did at least bring us a few pleasant surprises. One was the mounting evidence for butter as a healthy food. Another was that researchers at Purdue University found that eating too much red meat may not be bad for you at all, contrary to decades-old advice from doctors.
To reach this wonderful conclusion, the researchers conducted a meta-analysis on 945 studies which looked at red meat consumption, and its effects on cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease (CVD). They then narrowed down these studies to those that could actually show a cause-and-effect relationship between eating red meat and CVD, instead of just an association between the two. This left just 24 studies, but that was enough for the researchers to conclude that red meat is actually healthy–or at least, not unhealthy.
“We found that consuming more than half a serving per day of red meat, which is equivalent to a three-ounce serving three times per week, did not worsen blood pressure and blood total cholesterol,” doctoral student Lauren O’Connor told Purdue News. In this case, red meat means mostly beef and pork.
But there is, of course, a major caveat. The paper notes that the lead author of this study, Wayne W. Campbell, “received research support from American Egg Board–Egg Nutrition Center, Beef Checkoff, Coca-Cola Foundation, National Dairy Council, National Institutes of Health, Pork Checkoff, and USDA.” He also “had a consulting arrangement with Coca-Cola Company,” all while this research was being put together. Further, Campbell’s profile page lists the US Whey Consortium, the National Pork Board, and the American Egg Board as among providers of research grants.
Which is to say that perhaps you should wait for some different research before concluding for a fact that red meat isn’t good for you (it is definitely not good for the planet, regardless). There’s one piece of cast-iron nutritional advice we can follow, though: Don’t eat too much, and don’t eat too much of any one thing. A few hamburgers a month probably won’t cause a problem, but a few hamburgers a day may be another story. Also, you should probably avoid soda–both diet and regular–at all costs.