Which Report Is Really Believable?

Finally, after two years of hinting of its existence, The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association has released the Red Meat and Processed Meat Consumption and Cancer…A Technical Summary of the Epidemiologic Evidence, This 4-page report is intended to raise doubts that diets high in red and processed meat are linked to increased risk of colorectal and other cancers.

Which Report Is Really Believable?

Two years ago the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research (WCRF/AICR) published Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective. The report of this immense project comprises over 500 pages of very carefully collected and reviewed data. The conclusions of this project are continuously being updated as new research is published, and is freely available on line.

Two reports, very different conclusions! Critics suggest the self-published report is a public relations spin effort, rather than a comprehensive review of the science. How can we know which to believe? Consider the following three facts:

  1. The preparation of the WCRF/AICR report involved an international panel of 276 leading scientists from around the world. The Cattlemen’s report was the work of one principal investigator with the assistance of 8 support staff, none of whom had much background in nutrition.
  2. The Cattlemen’s report lacks transparency because it fails to describe how the authors conducted their literature searches, set their criteria for judging potential harm/benefit, and never underwent a peer-review process. The WCRF/AICR built transparency into every step of it five-year process, and all details can be viewed at anytime
  3. The Cattlemen’s Association fully paid for its report. The WCRF/AICR report was supported by non-profit organizations not beholden to any industry.

With these facts in mind, you be the judge. Which report is more creditable and reliable? Is it really surprising that each group reached a different conclusion?