Denise Minger posted a rebuttal at Will Red Meat Kill You? Although she is not a scientist, her article breaks down the arguments against red meat in a very straightforward manner, such that a non-scientist can judge their validity without needing a Ph.D. The points made are:
- The quoted study is purely observational, and based on people filling out a survey of food types they have eaten in the past (one survey every four years). DM makes the point that the researchers overstated the case:
The lead researcher Frank Hu claimed the study “provides clear
evidence that regular consumption of red meat, especially processed
meat, contributes substantially to premature death,” despite the fact
that the study is innately incapable of providing such evidence. (my emphasis)
I will note that the OP provided an example of that incorrect conclusion:
The study found that cutting red meat out of the diet entirely led to significant benefits. Except, that's not what the study did - that statement implies that someone actually cut red meat out of their diet, and saw health improvements (which didn't happen). Now, if they had done a controlled study, and actually changed people's diet (removing one factor at a time), the quoted statement, might be a legitimate result.
- The study's conclusion does not take into account other factors, such as total calories consumed, exercise levels, alcohol consumption, and smoking.
The folks eating the most red meat were also the least physically
active, the most likely to smoke, and the least likely to take a
multivitamin (among many other things you can spot directly in the
table, including higher BMIs, higher alcohol intake, and a trend
towards less healthy non-red-meat food choices).
- Study result that the Media failed to report:
Here we see the folks eating the least red meat have the highest rates
of elevated cholesterol, while the red-meat-indulgers have the lowest
rates. Given the media’s eagerness to assign cause and effect to this
study, it’s mighty strange none of the headlines proclaimed “Red meat
- Then there's the bad statistics:
Those numbers thrown around in the fear-mongering news clips—20%
increased risk of death from all causes for processed meat and 13%
increased risk of death from all causes for unprocessed meat—are
classic examples of how even the most ho-hum findings can sound
dramatic if you spin them the right way (and remember to attribute
them to Hahhh-vard). If your risk of dying from a particular disease
is 5% to start with, a “20% increased risk” only bumps you up to 6% in
the grand scheme of things. That’s a lot less scary.
The original study is at: Red Meat Consumption and Mortality